Hit or miss.
That’s the simplest way to put how Taysom Hill played in the New Orleans Saints’ 21-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday. A ton of good plays were combated by a patch of potentially-disastrous ones.
The Saints linebackers, on the other hand, had nothing disastrous to combat their positive plays. They were studs all game, and are continuing a path of improvement towards becoming one of the top linebacker groups in the league after the acquisition of Kwon Alexander.
I took an in-depth look at these two facets of the Falcons game — Taysom and the linebackers — to paint a clearer picture of exactly how they’re performing on the field and what we can take away from it.
Taysom Hill’s outing in Week 13 was somewhat similar to his first one against the Falcons in Week 11. He made more good plays than bad, but the bad ones were strikingly bad. If you don’t include the two fumbles, his box score numbers look pretty nice — 27/37 for 232, 2 TDs and 0 INTs.
But you simply can’t ignore the fumbles. There isn’t much true analysis to it other than the guy has small hands, and the issue probably isn’t going to just go away.
#Saints QB Taysom Hill has had issues with the football tonight. Silly as it might sound, hand size could be a factor here.— Deuce Windham (@RevDeuceWindham) August 18, 2018
Average hand size for NFL QB: 9.6 inches
Hill's hand size: 8 3/4
Drew Brees' hand size: 10 1/4
More info on QB hand size:https://t.co/jeDhmEEoYS
TeamRankings.com has Hill with nine fumbles on the year, which is third-most in the league, even though he’s played a fraction of the snaps the other guys in the top 10 have.
And what’s frustrating about it is — when he’s not fumbling, he can be pretty dynamic with the ball in his hands.
From a clean pocket, Hill was money for the most part. On these non-pressured drop-backs, he was 22/27 for 200 yards and 2 TDs. He was especially effective on intermediate throws (10-19 yards) in the middle of the field or to the right.
On intermediate middle throws, he was 6/8 for 89 yards and a TD. Take this play below for example, where he waits for the exact perfect time that the linebacker commits to the check-down route to hit Jared Cook on the Glance pattern.
And on intermediate right throws, he was 3/3 for 49 yards. On this play, he hits Michael Thomas on the money with a rocket to convert a 3rd and 17.
He really only had a couple of poor balls that he let loose from clean pockets — One being an underthrow to Mike Thomas on a deep crosser that should’ve been picked by A.J. Terrell, and a deep ball to Tommylee Lewis that he shouldn’t have thrown.
Under pressure, he made a few errant plays, one obviously being the strip sack, along with one bad ball behind Alvin Kamara that could’ve been picked off.
Overall, on these pressured drop-backs, he went 5/10 for 32 yards and was sacked twice, to go along with the fumble.
This is obviously normal to be worse on pressured drop-backs, as every quarterback in the league is, but he just needs to pick his spots where to be conservative and where to be aggressive. Brees has supposedly taught him a lot, but he must’ve missed the lesson about throwing the ball in the dirt sometimes.
What I’m more worried about than anything with Hill as a pocket passer isn’t when he throws the ball, it’s when he decides not to — because a lot of the time he decides not to when someone is open.
I counted five or six plays in this game where there was an open receiver he conceivably could’ve come back to, but he either checked it down or scrambled.
Take this play for example:
It’s 3rd and 5, and the Saints are going to run a Man-beater to try and clear out coverage for Alvin Kamara. The only problem is Hill has it pre-determined in his brain that he’s going to throw this to AK.
Sanders comes wide open right in front of his face, but he somehow doesn’t see it, and waits for Kamara, who falls on his route.
Taysom ends up scrambling and not getting the first down (they would get the first down eventually but that’s not the point here).
Another one I wanted to point out was a play in the third quarter where Mike Thomas comes open on a Four Verticals concept.
This route combination works out perfectly, as the Falcons are running Cover 3 Zone, and the safety is held in the middle of the field by Tre’Quan Smith’s seam route. Naturally because of this, Thomas gets matched up with a linebacker trying to carry him on a deep crosser, and he has leverage over the top.
Taysom does have a rusher coming around the edge, but I thought he had time to step up and hit Thomas for what could’ve been a big gain. Instead, he scrambles for about seven yards.
Honestly, I can live with the missed opportunities down the field and the misreads with Taysom as a pocket passer if those were his only downfalls, because he makes enough good decisions/throws to compensate for them and can produce yards out of thin air with his legs.
However, the fumbles are a deal-breaker for me. If that stuff doesn’t get cleaned up, I frankly wouldn’t stick with him long-term.
So overall, it’s a mixed bag. But there definitely is something there to work with.
This linebacking core tho
I know not everyone loves PFF grades, and sometimes for good reason, but I thought it was noteworthy that the three top-graded defensive players for the Saints on Sunday were Alex Anzalone, Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander — 90.6, 89.6 and 83.3, respectively.
Given, Anzalone only played nine total snaps on plays where the D went to Base personnel, but the point remains that this linebacking core is legit.
Davis and Alexander combined to allow only four catches on six targets for 21 yards, although Kwon did get beat on a late TD pass to Russell Gage. Alexander also broke up two passes.
Anzalone led the group in run stops, with two, despite only playing five run defense snaps.
The three of them had an amazing three-consecutive-play stretch late in the third quarter that I wanted to highlight, where they all took turns making plays.
First was Anzalone:
The Saints are in Base to counteract a Jumbo personnel look on first down by the Falcons, who try to run outside zone. Zack Baun does a good job setting the edge, and Anzalone eludes the guard trying to reach him at the second level. He then makes the stop and prevents the cutback by the RB.
The very next play, the Saints are in Cover 2 Man, which they played a ton of on late downs, and Alexander breaks up a pass on an out route by Hayden Hurst.
Atlanta is running a simple Go-Out concept here, and Matt Ryan thinks Hurst has enough separation to where he can fit this ball onto his outside shoulder. He was mistaken.
Kwon gets his paw in there for the break-up.
On the NEXT play after that, it’s obviously third and long, and the Dirty Birds try to run a pick play to free up Julio Jones. But Demario was having none of it.
It’s a two-high look, and the Saints look like they’re in a Quarter match type of coverage. Davis makes a great read to drop the tight end off to the safety and undercut Jones’s route.
This is a fantastic read and reaction by Davis, who executes his job perfectly here. And it’s a great call by Dennis Allen.
Ryan is hoping it’s 2-Man, as the Saints had been playing on late downs all game, but instead, DA shows the two-high safeties and deploys a zone.
This was the third of a string of impressive plays by the Saints linebackers where they singlehandedly made the Falcons offense go 3-and-out on a big drive.
This kind of talent and depth at that spot is something New Orleans hasn’t seen in a while. And it’s great to have moving forward.
What were your thoughts from the game? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, follow us on Instagram at @SaintsCSC and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.