Taysom Hill did anything but disappoint in his debut as the starting quarterback of the New Orleans Saints offense last week. He went 18 of 23 for 233 yards, and he rushed another 10 times for 49 yards. However, there are certainly things if you dig a bit deeper that he’ll need to work on for the sake of consistency.
One of those things is keeping his receivers involved. Half of his completions went to Michael Thomas, which is to be expected when a new quarterback has a top 3 receiver in football to throw to. However, Emmanuel Sanders is right there as well, and Hill appeared to have a fledgling connection with him.
Hill completed four passes to Sanders out of five attempts, but four of his attempts were within 10 yards. The one that wasn’t... Well...
So, how was Sanders factored into the gameplan? The answer is, frankly, simply.
This is the exact same play the Saints opened the game with to get Hill going with Thomas. It’s simply a naked boot designed to get Hill on the move and a clear view of the field. If you’re Hill, the release has to be lightning quick here to maximize Sanders’ ability to make a play before he hits the sideline.
The ball should be coming out around here. Sanders is about to hit his break, Hill has a clear view upfield, and Deion Jones is too low to make a play. Really, Sanders has one or two guys to beat in space if he makes the play.
Instead, Hill appears to get a bit in his own head and spikes it at Sanders’ feet, leading to an incompletion. While a rocky start, it’s a good thought, and it’s one the Saints could well revisit against the Broncos this week.
Hill’s biggest completion of the game was by no means pretty, but it wasn’t entirely on him. The concept is a post for Sanders, while Thomas hooks underneath. The Falcons are playing two deep in coverage, in what looks like a variation of the Tampa 2.
This is the come-to-Jesus moment for Hill. Can he make this throw? Sanders is behind the entire defense, and if he gets hit in stride, Deion Jones isn’t gonig to catch him one-on-one. Thomas has Keanu Neal biting down on the comeback. You can’t ask for a better result — If Hill can get the ball 40+ yards downfield.
The answer here is a resounding “no.” Hill gets his leg taken out from under him as he makes the throw, and Sanders ends up becoming a punt returner. After Jones overruns the play, Sanders comes back and makes the catch. On a good day, Hill probably has the arm strength to make this throw. But trust is also a factor, and with the big curl hop and late release, it looks like he’s going to have to learn to trust his own arm. This is definitely a work in progress, but it’s kind of while this throw went the distance it did when Hill was technically hit on the throw.
The last non-screen to Sanders is actually something it will be nice to see more of as Hill gets more comfortable. Sanders comes in motion and the Saints are going to run a play action from under center. Sanders runs a simple sit route over the middle of the field on 2nd & 9, and the Saints stay ahead of the sticks.
This is easy spacing, but Hill does a nice job of knowing his read. The only minor gripe is that he had his tight end in space down the field, but with pressure coming, knowing your hot read is the best thing a QB can do.
Hill and Sanders have a lot to work on together, but there’s a good foundation in place. Sanders, if given the opportunity, can be a big play maker, and Hill has the arm to facilitate that. It would be nice to see Hill believe in his own arm and start making those throws downfield, especially when Sanders is clearly in a mismatch.
It’s all baby steps — everything takes time, especially connections — but if there’s one thing Hill has in spades it’s arm strength.
Against the Broncos, these opportunities will likely show themselves again. With a week and a win under his belt, let’s see if Hill starts to trust his arm and take more shots downfield, and also see if the Saints start looking for ways to get Sanders open downfield more often rather than using him as screen bait.