TE, QB, special teams ace? Whatever you call him, call Taysom Hill a playmaker

Tight end, quarterback, or special teams ace? Whatever you call him, call Taysom Hill a playmaker. The Saints are lining him up right where he needs to be:

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We honestly didn’t have a great feel for what the New Orleans Saints planned for Taysom Hill this year. After initially announcing his move from quarterback to tight end, that turned out to be more of a shift in focus than a full-time switch. Hill still lined up in the backfield during Week 1’s game with the Atlanta Falcons, though he didn’t throw a single pass, and ended up producing some of the team’s most explosive plays.

But as Dennis Allen had said over the summer, Hill was taking snaps at quarterback without spending the entire game there. Jameis Winston is the unquestioned starter, and Andy Dalton is his backup. That doesn’t mean Hill doesn’t provide some real value in his role as a do-it-all gadget player. He converted a first down twice as a runner, picking up an impressive 81 yards on the ground and scoring the game’s first touchdown on an 11-yard carry — which followed a huge 57-yard gain to set his new personal record.

He also played special teams with the punt return and punt coverage units, forcing a crucial holding penalty on Falcons long snapper Liam McCullough in the game’s final minute that moved the Saints offense into better field position on the ensuing possession. If McCullough hadn’t committed a hold Hill may have blocked the punt. Instead, Winston took over at his own 20-yard line (rather than the New Orleans 10) and lobbed a 40-yard pass to Jarvis Landry to flip the field. A couple of plays later, Wil Lutz booted a 51-yard field goal to retake the lead, and ultimately win the game. There’s a real possibility that things play out much differently had Hill not forced that penalty to start the sequence.

So he isn’t a quarterback, and he isn’t just a special teams asset. He also isn’t a conventional tight end. Hill played fewer snaps than tight ends Juwan Johnson (45) and Adam Trautman (25) against Atlanta, seeing 16 reps on offense. He carried the ball himself 4 times (gaining 57, 11, 9, and 4 yards) while running 4 routes (catching his lone target as a receiver to pick up 2 yards on 1st-and-10, which the Falcons admittedly defended well) and working as a blocker on 8 snaps.

That’s a unique distribution that sets him apart from the other tight ends on the roster, and taken with the greater context of his efforts on special teams and his dynamism as a runner, it explains why the Saints value him so highly. They have a package of plays in which he can help the team win games, and they’re going to continue giving him those opportunities until opposing defenses guard him better.

Hill gave it a good shot at trying out as a full-time NFL quarterback. That didn’t work out the way he wanted, but that’s okay. He’s being a team player and stepping back into the role that Pete Carmichael Jr. and the offensive coaching staff can work with. It’s earned him a contract extension with New Orleans that is paying him $10.1 million this year, per Over The Cap. If he can keep playing well when his number is called, that’ll end up looking like a bargain.

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Watch: Detroit Lions Podcast recaps Week 1 and previews the Commanders

Watch: Detroit Lions Podcast breaks down Week 1 and previews the Lions’ Week 2 game against the Commanders

Was the Detroit Lions 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 1 a moral victory or a sign of progress? That’s one of the many questions broken down in the latest episode of the Detroit Lions Podcast.

We break down all sorts of things from the Week 1 game, from Jared Goff’s performance to defensive schematic choices. Was Dan Campbell’s decision to try an onside kick a good one? How did Jeff Okudah fare in his return to the field after a torn Achilles in Week 1 a year ago? Just how good was D’Andre Swift?

We also turn to Week 2 and the Washington Commanders, highlighting the key matchups and advantages Detroit might have. The Lions are favored to win for the first time in well over a year, can they pull it off?

The show streams live on YouTube. The audio-only version of the show is available on your favorite podcast provider, just search Detroit Lions Podcast.

Texans fall to No. 28 in NFL.com power rankings

The Houston Texans fell to No. 28 in the NFL.com power rankings following their 20-20 tie with the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1.

The Houston Texans tied with the Indianapolis Colts 20-20 in Week 1 at NRG Stadium, and that cost them one spot in the power rankings.

According to Dan Hanzus from NFL.com, the Texans dropped to No. 28 due to coach Lovie Smith’s decision to play for a tie in overtime rather than risk it all for a win.

Lovie Smith won’t say it, but when he sends the punt unit on the field on 4th-and-3 at midfield with less than one minute to play in overtime, he’s telling the world, “I don’t think my offense is good enough.” Settling for a tie when you have a chance to score a major Week 1 upset is a disappointing way for your new head coach to announce his arrival, but it’s not like Smith was without justification. The Davis Mills-led offense produced just 12 yards in the fourth quarter, allowing the Colts to erase a 20-3 deficit. “When you get a lead like that, good things had to happen on both sides of the football and special teams,” Smith said. “So that’s what we’ll build on.” Ugh.

Actually, what Smith said was the defense was gassed. Presuming the offense couldn’t pick up the first down on a fourth-and-3 from midfield, Smith knew that the defense wasn’t going to be able to stop the Colts from getting Rodrigo Blankenship into field goal range for a game-winning attempt. After all, that is precisely what happened on Indianapolis’ first drive of overtime.

Across the rest of the AFC South, the Colts took the worst of the tie as they dropped three spots down to No. 12. The Tennessee Titans were No. 17. The Jacksonville Jaguars were No. 31.

D’Andre Swift’s career day earns him the top PFF grade for all RBs

Swift had a career-high 144 rushing yards and topped all RBs in PFF grading in Week 1

D’Andre Swift ran wild on Sunday, and the accolades keep running to the Lions running back.

Swift earned the highest Pro Football Focus grade of any running back in Week 1 for his impressive performance in the Lions’ 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Ford Field. PFF graded out Swift with an 82.3 overall mark, the best of any RB.

Swift racked up 144 rushing yards on 15 carries, a career-high in ground production. Five of his carries gained at least 10 yards, and Swift managed 98 yards after contact. Saquon Barkley of the Giants and Jonathan Taylor of the Colts had more rushing yards, but Swift did more on his own accord to get those rushing yards than Taylor, while Barkley cost himself in the grading with a fumble.

The previous career-high for Swift was 136 yards in Week 11 of last season against the Browns. The third-year RB actually earned a higher PFF grade for that game (83.1) in part for having more work in the receiving game.

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Texans G Kenyon Green earns No. 1 spot on CBS Sports’ top rookies list for Week 1

Houston Texans guard Kenyon Green was named the best rookie from Week 1 according to CBS Sports’ rankings.

Houston Texans guard Kenyon Green didn’t start the game against the Indianapolis Colts, but the Texas A&M product managed to play more snaps than starter Justin McCray and earn some distinction in the process.

According to Josh Edwards from CBS Sports, Green was the best rookie from the first week of the 2022 NFL season.

Green is one of three Texans on the list. A year ago, there were obvious Rookie of the Year candidates early in the season but this year feels much more wide open. No one separated themselves from the rest and everyone is now fishing in the same pond.

McCray got the start at left guard over the first-round offensive lineman, but Green managed to outplay the veteran by the time the 70-minute game ended in a 20-20 tie at NRG Stadium. Green had 38 offensive snaps compared to McCray’s 32.

According to coach Lovie Smith, Green managed to get better as the game went along.

“What we saw was improvement as he played,” Smith told reporters Sept. 12. “He did some good things yesterday. We’ve gotten that first game out of the way too with him. Kenyon is going to play more and more. We don’t go into starting lineups this early in the week, of course. I liked a lot of the things he did yesterday.”

Green could actually earn a starting role as the Texans prepare for the Denver Broncos, who they face at 3:25 p.m. Central Time Sunday at Empower Field at Mile High.

The other two Texans on the list were cornerback Derek Stingley (No. 3) and safety Jalen Pitre (No. 11).

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Jeff Okudah: Breaking down the Lions CB’s Week 1 performance vs. the Eagles

Breaking down Lions CB Jeff Okudah and his performance vs. the Eagles in Week 1

One year ago, Week 1 was a nightmare for Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah. Barely one half into Detroit’s opener in 2021, Okudah tore his Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.

It’s been a long road back to the lineup. Okudah worked and rehabbed very hard, and he earned the starting outside CB job once again as a result. He played well — mostly — during training camp and preseason, but the first real test came in Week 1 of 2022 against the visiting Philadelphia Eagles.

I went back over the game tape and charted every single defensive play from Okudah. I took notes on what No. 1 did on all 67 of his defensive snaps (he sat out nine plays).

Cornerbacks are not involved on every play, so I whittled out those reps. That left 21 plays where what Okudah did have an impact on the offensive play. I graded each of those with a simple plus or minus.

Okudah wound up with 14 plusses and seven minuses. Five of the plusses came on plays where Eagles QB Jalen Hurts wanted to throw the ball to the receiver Okudah was covering, but the good coverage forced Hurts to look elsewhere. Four of the minuses came in run defense or tackling after the catch, including one missed tackle and one blown run contain responsibility. Okudah did earn two plusses for successfully playing outside run contain and forcing the runner into a tackle.

I had Okudah on the hook for three completions allowed during the game on plays where he was clearly the person in coverage. One was an early third-down pass to A.J. Brown where Okudah played too far off and gave up the 10-yard conversion. The only other time Brown caught a ball with Okudah in coverage, No. 1 tackled him immediately for a loss of a yard. The officials generously spotted the ball back at the original line of scrimmage even though Brown never sniffed that progress.

He allowed one completion for sure to TE Dallas Goedert, an 11-yard gain where Okudah was late to recognize his underneath responsibility in zone that gained 10 yards. That makes three catches for 21 yards directly on Okudah’s ledger by my accounting.

The only other completion that could possibly be on Okudah was a screen to Goedert where he might have been the closest defender at the time of the pass while in zone coverage. I’ve seen the Lions practice this look several times and it’s generally the play-side LB who is responsible in coverage here, but rookie Malcolm Rodriguez got hung up inside on a fake. It’s understandable that outside analysts like Pro Football Focus would chart this one on Okudah, but my experience with the defense is that it was not his coverage mark. He happened to sniff it out well and his quick reactions actually became a negative in outside grading. Okudah didn’t play the run-after-catch well regardless and it earned a minus from me for that.

Against Devonta Smith, who was his primary coverage mark most of the game, Okudah did not allow a single completion on four attempts, including a pass defended on an early third down. Twice on the Eagles’ opening drive, Hurts wanted to throw to Smith but Okudah had him locked down. Hurts eventually stopped looking there, and Okudah deserves some credit for that alteration to the Eagles’ offense.

Overall, it was a strong day for Okudah in his return to the field. He did not allow a single big play. Okudah played with confidence and physicality against a really good Eagles offense. Hard to ask for more from No. 1 than how he played in Week 1.

Texans QB Davis Mills named a Week 1 ‘secret superstar’

The Houston Texans may have tied with the Indianapolis Colts 20-20 in Week 1, but QB Davis Mills gave a low key superstar effort.

The Houston Texans actually got a favorable performance out of their second-year quarterback despite the 20-20 tie with the Indianapolis Colts in Week 1 at NRG Stadium.

According to Doug Farrar from the Touchdown Wire, quarterback Davis Mills was a “secret superstar” from the first week of the 2022 NFL season. Mills completed 23-of-37 for 240 yards, two touchdowns, a 98.9 passer rating, and took three sacks.

We’ll get into Mills’ two touchdown passes to new tight end O.J. Howard in the O.J. Howard portion of our program, so I wanted to focus on a few other aspects of Mills’ performance against the Colts in a 20-20 tie that certainly wasn’t Mills’ fault. Mills was a better intermediate and deep passer than people thought he was in his rookie season, and this 14-yard comeback to Brandin Cooks shows how well he can get the ball out on time and with rhythm even when a defender (in this case, Indianapolis edge-rusher Ifeadi Odenigbo), is coming for his face.

And on this 18-yard in-cut to Nico Collins, Mills again shows nice touch and timing. We’re not going to mention that Mills probably had receiver Chris Moore for a wide-open touchdown on the deep over from the slot with 21 seconds left in the first half in a drive that ended with no points… because hey, it’s Week 1 for everybody. We’re all getting into game shape.

Against a pretty game Colts defense, Mills completed 23 of 37 passes for 240 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. The 2021 third-round pick continues to look like a surprise franchise quarterback.

For Mills to even enter the conversation as a franchise quarterback for Houston, he will need to play at that level on a consistent basis, and his superstar performances can no longer be a secret.

Houston gets back in action against the Denver Broncos Sunday at 3:25 p.m. Central Time at Empower Field at Mile High.

Week 1 highlights from former Longhorns in the NFL

Former Longhorns balled out in Week 1 of the NFL season.

The 2022 NFL season is officially off and running. Week 1 wrapped up Monday night after an exciting opening slate of games.

Many former Longhorns had successful starts to the new year.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay looks to be one of Lamar Jackson’s favorite targets thus far. Duvernay hauled in two touchdowns in the dominant win over the Jets.

Miami Dolphins safety Brandon Jones was all over the field against the Patriots on Sunday. Jones tallied 11 tackles, one forced fumble and one sack in the victory.

His teammate Connor Williams performed great on the offensive side of the ball as well. Williams graded out as the best offensive player on the field for Miami.

Linebacker Jordan Hicks showed out in his Vikings debut. He picked up a team-high 14 tackles and a sack in Minnesota’s huge win over Green Bay. Hicks helped shut down Aaron Rodgers to just seven points in the ballgame.

Denver Broncos tight end Andrew Beck channeled his best Odell Beckam Jr. impression on Monday Night Football. He made an incredible one-handed snag early in the game against Seattle.

Here is a look at the highlights from the former Longhorns’ impressive starts to the NFL season.

NFL Week 1 Turning Points: Justin Fields conjures magic and the Broncos are their own worst enemy

Here are the biggest turning points of Week 1, like Fields creating a TD out of thin air.

With one week of regular season NFL football behind us, it’s a good time to remember that the trajectory of many games can flip in an instant. And a game’s outlook for one team can shift on absolutely anything in a seismic turning point.

One bad snap. One good throw. One unfortunate and ill-timed penalty. A sloppy turnover here and there. A terrible coaching decision in the crunch. Truly, there are many ways to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat and vice versa. We already saw it in Week 1.

A young quarterback put his offense on his back in a messy affair. Elsewhere, redemption for a formerly injured receiver put the Giants in a great spot on the road. Meanwhile, no matter what they did, the Broncos seemingly couldn’t get out of their own way.

Here’s a breakdown of the biggest turning points from Week 1 of the 2022 NFL season.

Bears winning in Week 1 has historically meant good things for the season

A victory in week one has usually meant a good season is on the horizon for the Chicago Bears.

The Chicago Bears in week one are just like a groundhog in early February. If they don’t get scared off by their shadow and secure a win to start the year, it usually means a good season is on the horizon.

They did just that against the San Francisco 49ers, winning 19-10 in an ugly game with even uglier weather conditions. The Bears came from behind with three unanswered touchdowns to upset the 49ers. The victory gave Chicago and head coach Matt Eberflus a 1-0 start on the season against a team many have considered to be a Super Bowl contender.

A win to start the season doesn’t guarantee the rest of the year will be successful. The good vibes may easily evaporate next week following the prime-time matchup against the Green Bay Packers and the Bears could find themselves in a skid. But more often than not, a victory in week one led to a good season, at least record-wise.

Since 2000 and not including this week’s victory, the Bears have started the season 1-0 just eight times. Clearly the Bears have trouble starting out on the right foot, but the good news is when they have won their opening game, they finished the rest of the season with a .500 record or better in every year but one.

Below are the seasons the Bears started 1-0 along with their final record.

  • 2002 (4-12)
  • 2006 (13-3)*
  • 2008 (9-7)
  • 2010 (11-5)*
  • 2011 (8-8)
  • 2012 (10-6)
  • 2013 (8-8)
  • 2020 (8-8)*

*Made playoffs

The only Bears team to not finish with a .500 record or better was in 2002 when they played their home games at the University of Illinois while Soldier Field was being renovated. The rest of the years, the Bears wins have resulted in competitive seasons.

The only downside to this trend is the Bears have only made the postseason in three of those seasons. But for a team that many picked to finish near the bottom of the league, a record of 9-8 or 10-7 would be a welcome surprise, even if a playoff berth isn’t in the cards.

Momentum is real in the NFL, and Eberflus has his team playing hard right out of the gate. Perhaps they can string some victories together and find themselves in a favorable position as the season draws on. History is on their side and wouldn’t you know it, the Bears didn’t see their shadow on a cloudy and rainy day.

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