New Orleans Saints: What To Make of Taysom Hill’s First NFL Start
How Good Is The Saints Offense With Hill?
With 6.1 yards/play and 378 total yards, it is clear that the Saints performed at a high level offensively on Sunday. However, will that continue to be the case?
It is clear that Hill has a lot to work with. Receivers Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are as reliable as it gets, while Jared Cook, Alvin Kamara, Tre’Quan Smith, and Adam Trautman are all noteworthy options in the passing game as well.
Thomas and Sanders combined for 180 receiving yards, while Thomas saw a season-high 12 targets come his way. Meanwhile, Cook and Kamara combined for one reception for six yards on two targets, so it is safe to say the nature of the passing game has shifted.
Rather than be centered around short passes over the middle of the field, the wide receivers will be the focus. The exciting aspect of Winston was that he would take more shots down the field than Brees, but Hill also showed a strong level of aggressiveness.
Where Hill, as expected, really made an impact, was in the running game. Although Payton didn’t call many designed runs for him, he still was able to be much more creative in the formations he used, which allowed him to create more favorable box counts to take advantage of.
Overall, New Orleans ran for 168 yards and 4.7 yards/attempt, and looked far more explosive.
That’s the benefit of having Hill in the lineup, and although rushing production is unstable, having an athlete like Hill at quarterback is naturally going to lead to more explosive plays in the running game.
With Hill, the Saints are not going to be an efficient offense, but with Payton’s creativeness and the team’s receiving talent, there is reason to believe they can still be productive. My main concern comes when Hill is forced to make a play.
The team only went 4-11 on third downs, which makes sense; Hill isn’t the type of proficient passer I’d expect to covert many third down and long situations. Thus, being as productive on early downs will be critical for Payton and this offense, though he did show the ability to do that with so many early-down play-action passes.
A test against a defensive mastermind in Vic Fangio and a talented Broncos defense, one who is strong in both run defense and coverage, will really be useful in assessing the legitimacy of a Hill-led offense.