The New Orleans Saints made the surprising decision to start Taysom Hill over Jameis Winston for Sunday’s Week 11 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, marking Hill’s first career start in the NFL. New Orleans — specifically head coach Sean Payton — has showed a lot of faith in Hill over the years, with the biggest vote of confidence in the team handing Hill a two-year, $21 million contract this past offseason.
Why did the Saints choose Hill over Winston? And what can we expect from Hill in his first start? Let’s take a look.
Why the Saints are going with Hill
Basically, the Saints aren’t paying Hill $4.8 million this year –and $17.439 million guaranteed — to strictly play H-Back when Brees is out, even though the front office signed Winston this offseason for the exact scenario. There’s also the potential that, if Hill plays well, the Saints could receive some draft compensation for him from a quarterback-needy team after the season. What prompted Payton to start Hill over Winston will be explained in due time, but the Saints offense will look very different with Hill taking the snaps this weekend.
A look at Hill’s NFL history
Hill has attempted just 18 passes in his four NFL seasons, completing 10 of them (55.6%) for 205 yards and an interception. This year has been Hill’s best as a passer, completing 4 of 5 passes for 86 yards while averaging 17.2 yards per attempt. The Saints are risking a lot by starting a player who hasn’t had a lot of experience throwing the ball in the NFL. Hill last started a regular season game at quarterback in his redshirt senior season at BYU in 2016, completing 59.7% of his passes (372 attempts) for 2,323 yards and 12 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Hill has been utilized more as a runner over the past few games, notching a career-high in carries over the past two weeks (seven in Week 9 and eight in Week 10), rushing for 99 yards and averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He has rushed for 186 yards on 34 carries (5.5 yards per carry) while scoring a touchdown this season. The Saints aren’t using Hill much as a receiver — he had six receiving touchdowns last year — a role he won’t be utilizing much now that he’s the starting quarterback.