You know his story and background, and you’ve heard the buzz. Thursday night in the New Orleans Saints preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars you finally got to see the product and the show that is —-Taysom Hill.
You had to watch the game to feel the full experience, the boxscore doesn’t tell the entire story. But in either case, Hill was worth your time. Thursday’s opener gave Saints watchers and listeners their first glimpse of many future developments —- and a win, for whatever that’s worth.
The results were fine as New Orleans used a second-half comeback built with backup and third string reserves to rally in a victory very reminiscent of last season’s campaign. But this version was simply an exhibition and missing various healthy scratches. The most noteworthy including Drew Brees and Cam Jordan. That left backups such as Quarterback Tom Savage starting. And if you let Saints twitter tell the story, much was left to be desired.
Tom Savage is the Michael Jordan of baseball of quarterbacks. #Saints— Darth Saint (@Darth_Saint) August 10, 2018
But that’s Twitter’s story, the facts show that Savage actually had an alright game. He wasn’t perfect, finishing 10-of-14 for 70 yards with zero touchdowns. He also had a few errant throws that you would like to see him complete. However, Savage didn’t turn the football over and made the most of his opportunities when they were available.
Very nice throw here by #Saints QB Tom Savage. These quick throws are harder than they look.— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) August 9, 2018
-only 1 step to find placement/grip on ball
-Locate and hit receiver's outside shoulder
-Deliver accurate, and well placed, ball w/ zip to allow upfield movement. pic.twitter.com/4KzQh5zFAe
The point being: Let Drew Brees hold your standard of greatness, not his backups. After Savage’s night was done, WhoDatNation finally received the moment they had been waiting for. The Taysom Hill experience was ready for liftoff at the beginning of the Second Half.
Now let’s understand something about quarterbacks and the word “experience” in this context. It’s mainly reserved for quarterbacks who can be framed as unorthodox or scramblers. Traditional pocket passing quarterbacks no matter their greatness, don’t normally have words like experience or “show” in correspondence with their performances.
The reason I can guess is that there’s not much excitement in a crash where one side is stationary, it’s just plain horrible at that point. But with players like Hill, even the disasters can have you at the edge of your seat. It’s what made Quarterbacks like Steve Young, Doug Flutie, Fran Tarkenton, Micheal Vick and Randall Cunningham among others, all spectacles.
It’s unknown if Taysom Hill will be closer to the aforementioned class of players, or if Tavaris Jackson, Quincy Carter, or Johnny Manziel will be better comparisons. Either way, Hill’s first game gave everybody their first taste of what could become a thrilling future. Hill finished Thursday’s victory completing eight of nine passes for 72 yards, zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. But Taysom would be just any other guy if his feet didn’t tell part of his story where he ended his night compiling 52 yards on seven rushes and a touchdown.
When’s the last time you’ve seen that in the playbook?
And what about this one?
As exciting as that was that’s not what’s going to help Hill in the long run. And it isn’t what has Sean Payton’s attention; It’s his talked about ability to process information and make secure throws in and outside of the pocket. Let’s remember that Micheal Vick’s career year wasn’t in Atlanta, it was in Philadelphia.
Before him, Randall Cunningham’s best season wasn’t in Philadelphia, it was in Minnesota. The evidence carries for many quarterbacks like Hill: A run-first quarterback is eventually a defense’s best friend. But a true dual-threat can be their worst nightmare. Even the most athletic of quarterbacks eventually need balance as a passer to support their swift blessings.
Early in Hill’s first series, the second year man out of BYU found this out the hard way. Hill did his best to use his legs early, often collapsing out of the pocket to find space, rather than using his arm on quick reads. At the first sight of pressure, Hill fled. And while his reserve offensive line did him few favors, his first series soon ended with two sacks. Hill’s second drive wasn’t much better due to a couple offensive penalties, and a punt soon followed. Remember the Saints twitter story from earlier? Hill wasn’t exempt from criticism either .
Taysom Hill has the pocket awareness of Danny Wuerful— Ralph Malbrough (@SaintsForecast) August 10, 2018
Even with the drunk spelling, you know damn well which former Steve Spurrier product he’s talking about. Even with a slow start, the Taysom Hill experience had everyone’s attention, it just hadn’t controlled its wheels yet. Then came the third and game-defining drive. We soon learned how the simple plays would help Hill the most.
Hill made adjustments, stepping up into the pocket, firing out of three and five step dropbacks throughout the drive, while using his legs when needed. He showed confidence, balance, and perseverance in a twelve play 81-yard touchdown led drive. By the time it was over, so was Hill’s night, and we were on to J.T Barrett. The Taysom Hill experience had ended in three drives, that felt like 13. But the Hill performance approval train however, was just beginning. Saints twitter showed it had a heart, and was able to forgive.
He’s so gloriously terrible/fun/exciting. I hope he’s in Saints camp until 2025 https://t.co/6SAyhoTAbJ— Ralph Malbrough (@SaintsForecast) August 10, 2018
Taysom Hill stat line— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) August 10, 2018
Passing: 8 for 9, 72 yards, 100 rating
Rushing: 7 carries, 52 yards, TD
Columnists made giddy: 1
I’m officially all in on the preseason. The Taysom Hill Experience is fun.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) August 10, 2018
In a matter of one drive, Taysom Hill made you go from shaking your head and throwing your remote. To screaming and looking for another pair of batteries. Just be thankful these games don’t count yet.
As the night finished, you probably still don’t know what or who you have in Taysom Hill. We all know preseason results can be misleading. But in the end, we’re all fans for a reason. One reason being hopefully to learn. For example, plays such as the one below are the elements of Hill’s game that everyone should have their eyes on. While Hill’s display of theatrics are a beauty to watch, the simple fundamental plays are the ones that could make him most dangerous .
I like this one by #Saints QB Taysom Hill. Steps up in the pocket, remains poised, avoids pressure and hits the open receiver with a well place throwing allowing him to turn up field. pic.twitter.com/scte2HE9ft— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) August 10, 2018
And while Hill recovered in amazing fashion, his pocket awareness will need to improve over time. He must continue to improve as a thrower and not look to recreate the “Running Man Challenge” at the first sight of a defender in pursuit.
Let’s also be honest with ourselves here, Sean Payton hasn’t coached a guy like Hill in years, since his final days in Dallas with Tony Romo. And no disrespect to Tony, but Hill is on a different planet as an athlete. So Payton for sure has much to learn and tinker with, but there’s also a ton he has to teach. Learning from Payton and Drew Brees should only help Hill as he matures as an NFL caliber signal caller.
As the preseason continues, expect more highs and lows. Expect touchdowns and few turnovers, but unmatched excitement throughout the process. Your favorite roller-coaster ride should put everything into perspective. What good are the exhilarating moments without those queasy feelings when you feel as if you could die at any second? And if you’re old enough, you may be able to remember the last Saints quarterback that gave you similar sentiments.
There’s an argument that the Saints haven’t seen an enigma like Taysom Hill since the early days of Aaron Brooks. Remembering him should alert you of the possible challenges that could soon await. But even that was fun for a moment. The point remains, whether a star or a disaster Hill should be fun. And regardless of the result, isn’t that the reason you watch the game, to begin with? Unpredictability may not take you far in most jobs, but in football where bodies are on the line daily, it can become a savior for some players. It’s for sure a savior for Taysom Hill. Where this adventure stops is later to be determined, but if even for a day, the first ride was a success.