Projecting the Saints’ starting offense before training camp

Some key additions for the New Orleans Saints bring up a new-look offense in 2022, with several new starters projected in the lineup, via @RossJacksonNOLA:

As organized team activities (OTAs) begin around the NFL, important roster battles get started, injured players show their progress, and rookies look to establish themselves. There’s no exception for the New Orleans Saints as the team reports to the facility on Airline Drive. Many of the new additions and standout rookies will be on the offensive side of the ball thanks to the offseason additions of rookie wideout Chris Olave, fellow first-round selection tackle Trevor Penning, and veteran wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

From now through OTAs and the upcoming mandatory minicamp events the Saints offensive roster will look to shake out. Training camp will bring not only a clearer look at the 2022 depth chart, but will certainly provide it’s own intrigue as starters get solidified. Here’s a look at the projected starting Saints offense ahead of training camp and the preseason:

Dennis Allen says Saints envision Taysom Hill playing tight end in 2022

Sean Payton made sure to get Taysom Hill paid before he stepped down. Now the Saints are stuck with the contract, and plan on having Hill focus on playing tight end:

One of the more curious subplots of the Sean Payton era is continuing on without him: the fate of New Orleans Saints dynamo Taysom Hill, who found mixed success as a quarterback while lining up at a variety of other positions including tight end, slot receiver, and running back. With Dennis Allen having replaced Payton as head coach, there will be a different plan for Hill moving forwards. Allen spoke about the vision for Hill on Tuesday from NFL owners meetings in south Florida.

Allen told NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill that Hill is focused on playing tight end this season, and his contract reflects that. The $10 million per-year average from his deal ranks eleventh around the NFL for tight ends, and the $21.5 million in guarantees he received at the time of signing would be eighth-best out of the group. So he’s firmly in their plans even if he isn’t starting games at quarterback.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett adds that Allen doesn’t envision Hill “standing next to me on the sideline” with Winston starting under center, meaning the Saints will have a different backup. Right now, their other quarterbacks under contract are Ian Book and Blake Bortles. It feels likely the Saints will add a fourth passer for training camp to round out the group, possibly through the 2022 NFL draft. One of last year’s backups, Trevor Siemian, was quickly signed by the Chicago Bears in free agency.

Exciting as Hill has been in this role at times, you’ve got to question the wisdom of paying him like a top-ten player at his position when he isn’t an every-down player. Hill is undersized to handle a heavy workload as a traditional inline tight end, and he’s struggled with injuries throughout his college and pro careers. He suffered a serious concussion on an illegal hit when running a route last year. He’ll have to split time with Adam Trautman and Nick Vannett to have any staying power as a full-time tight end. This could preclude the Saints from spending a draft pick on a rookie at the position, too. Any first-year player would be competing with Juwan Johnson to rank fourth on the depth chart.

If they’re going to invest this kind of contract in a tight end, why didn’t the Saints just wait and sign one of the top tight ends available in free agency? Instead they’re asking Hill to pack on all the muscle he shed to compete for the quarterback job last summer while recovering from injuries to both feet, his throwing hand, and his brain. It feels like a situation where the Saints made things more complicated for themselves than it needed to be. After restructuring Hill’s contract earlier this offseason they’re tied to him through June 1, 2023; that’s when Hill could be released without costing the Saints any extra money against the salary cap. Sean Payton made sure to get Hill paid before he quit as head coach. Now the Saints have to figure out what to do with him.

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Reports: ‘Taysom Hill experiment at quarterback over’ for the Saints

The Saints are back where they started with a big question mark at quarterback, but Taysom Hill won’t be considered as an answer, per multiple reports (via @RossJacksonNOLA):

After five years of exploration with Taysom Hill playing several roles on offense, it looks like the tryouts at quarterback have come to an end with the New Orleans Saints. The Athletic’s Larry Holder joined Michael Fabiano’s Fantasy Dirt show on Sirius XM and explained that the all-purpose player will not “be a part of that conversation” relative to the Saints open quarterback spot ahead of 2022.

Hill has taken 748 snaps at quarterback over the last four seasons with the Saints. He built momentum as the heir-apparent to Drew Brees’ in 2020 and filled in for Jameis Winston in 2021, navigating several injuries. Hill holds a career win-loss record of 7-2 as a starter. However, it looks like that won’t be enough to convince New Orleans to offer more opportunities as a signal-caller coming for the former BYU Cougar. One has to wonder how much Sean Payton’s departure factors into the equation as well as the former Saints coach was a champion of Hill’s.

Payton once referred to Hill as a “Steve Young type” and consistently shared his vote of confidence that he could be a starting quarterback in the NFL. But now, it looks like that part of Hill’s career trajectory has come to an end with the team. Nola.com’s Luke Johnson reported a similar story following this year’s NFL scouting combine as well. It looks like Hill’s role in New Orleans will shift to his pass-catching talents as opposed to what he can offer as a passer himself, which was reflected in the base value of his contract prior to a recent restructure.

This might signal more than Hill not getting the opportunity to compete for the starting role, but it may also mean fewer “Taysom Hill packages” on offense and swapping of signal callers throughout games. That could be appealing for an incoming passer who doesn’t necessarily want to feel like he’s being competed with throughout the season. After the Saints’ uncomfortable run at Deshaun Watson over the last week, a clear path ahead at quarterback would be a welcome sight for the franchise.

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Sean Payton: Taysom Hill will need offseason surgery for Lisfranc injury

Sean Payton: Taysom Hill will need offseason surgery for Lisfranc injury

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That’s tough. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton shared a brief update on injured quarterback Taysom Hill during his Monday morning media availability session, saying that Hill expects surgery to repair a Lisfranc fracture to his left foot. An initial procedure will add hardware to fix the broken bones; a later, smaller follow-up will remove it and put him on the path towards playing in 2022. Unfortunately for Hill, this is something he’s experienced before — a Lisfranc injury to his other foot ended his 2015 season at BYU. He knows what the process entails.

Recovery times for Lisfranc injuries are tough to plot out, though. There are a lot of variables from one athlete to the next, ranging from the severity of the break to their body type. A 2018 study found that most pro football and rugby players miss about ten months after surgery, with some returning as soon as seven months sooner while others take a year or longer to fully recover.

For context, Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport was diagnosed with a Lisfranc fracture in Dec. 2019 and was able to start training camp in late July without a stay on the physically unable to perform list, which beat the average timeline. That should be the most optimistic expectation for Hill, but we’ve got to remember that he’ll have other injuries to recover from this offseason, too. He played through plantar fascia in his right foot, a torn ligament in his throwing hand, and he missed most of a month with a serious concussion. We shouldn’t be shocked if it takes him longer than others to get back on the field.

So this means both of the Saints’ top two quarterbacks for 2022 will be recovering from serious injuries. Jameis Winston is still working his way back from a midseason torn ACL, and unlike Hill he isn’t under contract beyond March. It’s not a great situation for the Saints to be in, but they’ve got the means to navigate it. We’ll just have to wait and see what comes next.

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Alvin Kamara had the best reaction to Taysom Hill’s win-sealing TD run

Alvin Kamara had the best reaction to Taysom Hill’s win-sealing TD run

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The New Orleans Saints held onto a 14-point lead over the New York Jets late in the fourth quarter, but Taysom Hill wanted to leave no doubt. So when his coach Sean Payton dialed up the perfect play — and his blockers did an excellent job paving the way for his path to the open field — Hill took off at a sprint and kept going for 44 yards, outrunning rookie Jets safety Ashtyn Davis for the second-longest score of his career (only a 45-yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees in 2019 traveled further).

But it wasn’t supposed to go that way, at least if Alvin Kamara had anything to say about it. The Saints star running back had his own big performance against New York but found time to joke about Hill’s feats in his postgame press conference.

“He should’ve slid, I told his dumbass [to] slide,” Kamara quipped after the game. Sure, that may have been the smarter play in controlling the clock and setting the Saints up to keep the ball away from New York. The analytics community will certainly sign off on that opinion. But there’s no doubting how much more exciting a walk-off touchdown like Hill’s can be.

[lawrence-newsletter]

Sean Payton suggests Saints sticking with Taysom Hill at QB vs. Jets

Sean Payton suggests Saints sticking with Taysom Hill at QB vs. Jets

This isn’t much of a surprise, but the New Orleans Saints are likely going to ride with Taysom Hill under center in Week 14’s game with the New York Jets. Saints coach Sean Payton expressed confidence in in Hill despite an injury to his throwing hand and 4-interception performance last week against the Dallas Cowboys.

“This will be the next opportunity for him and I think he’ll do well,” Payton told NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill during his Wednesday media availability session before practice.

Hill replaced Trevor Siemian as the starter in that Cowboys game, Siemian himself having filled in for Jameis Winston following a season-ending knee injury. But it wasn’t enough to cut their losing streak short, and now the Saints stand awkwardly at 5-7, idling somewhere between a top-10 draft pick and a wild-card playoff seed.

Maybe Hill can help the offense get right against the Jets on Sunday. His strength as a runner was on display against Dallas with 101 rushing yards, a new single-game high in his career. But they’ll have their work cut out for them without wide receiver Deonte Harris, who paces the team in receiving yards but will be out the next three games while serving an NFL suspension.

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Report: Saints QB Taysom Hill will attempt to play through throwing hand injury

Report: Saints QB Taysom Hill will attempt to play through new throwing hand injury

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ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed an earlier report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport about New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill’s injured throwing hand, clarifying that while Hill is dealing with what’s called a “mallet finger” issue he plans on trying to play through it.

Hill’s throwing hand struck a Dallas Cowboys defender during a pass in Thursday night’s loss, crumpling his middle finger and tearing a tendon that limited his ability to grip and spin a football. A more serious, similar injury to Seattle Seahawks passer Russell Wilson earlier this year led to surgery and a stint on injured reserve but, for now, Hill intends to gut it out during the final five games of the Saints’ season.

They don’t have any better options. Hill replaced the struggling Trevor Siemian under center, who himself was filling in for the injured Jameis Winston (out for the year with a torn ACL). The Saints don’t have any plans of getting rookie draft pick Ian Book into a game with such a poor supporting cast around him, which makes sense — that wouldn’t be fair to him and could very quickly crush Book’s development.

Hopefully Hill is able to overcome his latest injury down the stretch as the Saints try to chase an elusive playoff berth. He’s missed time this season with a concussion and a painful plantar fascia issue in his foot, and things won’t be getting easier for him any time soon. At least he has ten days to rest up before next week’s road game with the New York Jets.

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Report: Taysom Hill taking first-team QB reps in practice, poised to start vs. Cowboys

Report: Taysom Hill taking first-team QB reps in practice, poised to start vs. Cowboys

Let’s get weird. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that the New Orleans Saints are giving quarterback Taysom Hill the first-team snaps on offense in practice, signaling a possible change from Trevor Siemian, who has gone 0-4 as a starter.

While Hill is managing a painful plantar fascia injury to his foot, if he’s able to go through a full week of practice in the role he should start against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night. Obviously we’ll need official word from the team before a quarterback change is confirmed.

Still, that’s exciting for a number of reasons, most notably the lessened exposure viewers have to the Siemian-driven offense. Siemian did his best but it just wasn’t enough with a supporting cast that seemed to get eroded by injuries more and more each week. Making a move to Hill (with Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and All-Pro right tackle Ryan Ramczyk possibly returning from their own injuries) at this juncture makes sense.

Hopefully he’ll be ready to rock. Hill went 3-1 during a month as the Saints’ starter in 2020 and offers more dimensions to the offense than their other options right now, even if he’s slowed by a foot injury. Stay tuned for updates to the injury report in the days ahead.

[lawrence-newsletter]

Reports: Saints QB Taysom Hill managing plantar fascia injury

Reports: Saints QB Taysom Hill managing plantar fascia injury

Ouch. While Taysom Hill’s foot injury hasn’t kept him out of practice lately, it’s been severe enough to keep him from starting ahead of Trevor Siemian or seeing any of the usual gadget plays the New Orleans Saints like to draw up for him. And as first reported by NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill (and confirmed Monday by the Times-Picayune | Advocate’s Jeff Duncan), Hill is dealing with a plantar fascia injury.

That may sound familiar: it’s the same injury that slowed down Drew Brees in 2021 (among other issues) and 2015, with former Saints tight end Jimmy Graham also limited by a partially-torn plantar fascia back in 2013. While these injuries don’t always require surgery, they can take six months or longer to fully recover from. It’s a painful condition inflaming the heel and forefoot and it makes sense that this is the reason Hill has been limited to a spectator in games.

What still doesn’t add up is that the Saints are sidelining Hill because of this injury but are fully prepared for him to play an entire game if, hypothetically, Siemian were to be injured on the first snap. They’ve made rookie draft pick Ian Book a healthy scratch the last two weeks with Hill watching the game without his helmet on as the only other active quarterback.

If something were to happen to Siemian and force Hill into a game for three quarters, would he just hand the ball off to someone else every play? What’s the logic here?

Hopefully Hill can gut it out to get on the field soon. The Saints have lost all four games Siemian has started since replacing Jameis Winston, and while a slight uptick in quarterback play won’t fix all their problems it sure would help. Their window to reaching the playoffs is getting slimmer by the week. A fifth consecutive loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday night would be the longest losing streak of Sean Payton’s tenure. Hopefully the Saints have a plan to reverse this course.

[lawrence-newsletter]

Going under the hood on Taysom Hill’s complicated contract extension

Taysom Hill’s contract extension created a lot of confusion. Now that its specifics have been reported, we’ve got answers about what it means now and for the future:

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Taysom Hill’s contract extension with the New Orleans Saints created a lot of confusion on social media, but we’ve got answers on what it means now and for the future after details from the deal were reported. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first shared details of Hill’s contract, which were confirmed by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

There aren’t any immediate changes in 2021. Hill’s current-year salary cap hit was already $7.259 million, with most of that coming from the last time he restructured his deal with the Saints. The real changes kick in next year, so we’ll look at each year of his contract and possible earnings he can gain through incentives: