New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill’s performance against the Denver Broncos in Week 12 has many layers to it.
On the surface, I know it didn’t didn’t look pretty. A 9/16 for 78 yards and 1 INT day through the air is hard to be aesthetically pleasing. But we at least got some confirmation after the game from head coach Sean Payton that Taysom was told be uber-conservative.
Payton said “Taysom played this exactly how I wanted him to play this.” He said he understands it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing.— Nick Underhill (@nick_underhill) November 30, 2020
While that may somewhat explain the layer of hesitance and missed opportunities against an aggressive defense, it doesn’t explain the risky throws and inaccuracy.
His adjusted completion percentage was 69.2%, which ranked 21st out of 31 QBs in Week 12. And his passer rating from a clean pocket was 52.7, which ranked 28th.
So, what do we make of this odd outing from a QB making his second career NFL start at the position?
I went back an took a thorough look at every one of his drop-backs to see what was really going on inside that golden helmet of his.
As far as play-by-play data on his 22 drop-backs — I marked six expected completions (check-downs or screens), five misreads of coverage, four plays where no one was open and he either scrambled or threw the ball away, two inaccurate balls (one was caught), two nice reads that were completed, one 50/50 ball to Michael Thomas, one where pressure got to him too quickly and one decent read/throw where Thomas got beat on the route by the corner.
Of course, these are all subjective to an extent. And there may be some overlap — a play where no one was open and pressure got there quickly — but all in all, I thought those were the biggest determining factors as to why those plays ended the way they did.
Since there was a lot of bad, let’s first dig into a couple of his good plays.
This is not only a good throw and read, but it’s good situational awareness. Taysom knows there are only 12 seconds left in the first half, and they have a timeout.
So, when the Saints run this curl/flat concept vs. a Cover 6 Zone look by Denver, he recognizes the curl/flat defender is eyeing the flat route, thinking he’s trying to get the ball to the sideline to stop the clock.
But Hill, knowing they have a timeout, comes back to the curl by MT and puts an accurate ball on him for 24 yards.
Later on in the game, Taysom did something I talked about in last week’s Pass offense article — He found Mike T in a one-on-one after catching the defense in Cover 1 Man.
This play is mostly made by Thomas, but this is good recognition of the coverage and a decent, catchable ball thrown by Hill. He first recognizes the one-high look and then sees the corner is in front of MT, so he hits him back-shoulder.
While those are nice plays, the bad news is that’s pretty much where the positivity ended. Those two plays accounted for 44 of his 78 pass yards, and the rest of them were pretty much schemed up or check-downs.
The area he struggled by the far the most in Sunday was just mental processing and decision-making.
Usually, if you have a QB who leans all the way into either an ultra conservative or aggressive approach, you can find a way to live with it. For example, Teddy Bridgewater just refusing to turn the ball over can be annoying because he doesn’t take necessary chances sometimes, but at least he’s not turning it over. Jameis Winston, on the other hand, obviously can be very frustrating, but at least you know you’ll get some spectacular plays mixed in there.
The problem with Taysom a few days ago is that he was displaying the downside of being a hesitant QB, while also making poor decisions and putting the ball in harm’s way.
Take these few plays for example:
Look, you can tell me you’re not taking any chances, but when someone is this wide open, your brain has to be able to react quickly enough to tell you to let the ball rip. This isn’t a “chance” throw.
The Saints run double digs to the strong side, and the curl/hook defender overreacts to Alvin Kamara’s flat route, leaving Tre’Quan Smith wide friggin’ open in the middle of the field.
PFF’s Seth Galina pointed out on Twitter that Hill may have been waiting for the second dig to come open behind Smith, and just didn’t react fast enough to TQS coming open. That’s pretty concerning if that’s the case, because that means he’s just pre-determining where he wants to throw the ball pre-snap and not properly reading the defense.
It results in a sack on third down after he holds the ball too long.
This play was really, really bad, and it showed that his struggles in this game weren’t just limited to him being hesitant because his coach told him not to take any risks.
The Broncos are in a 4-deep, Quarters look here, and the Saints run a post/wheel type concept to the bottom of the screen off of play action.
The post by Marquez Callaway carries the deep safety, but Taysom doesn’t diagnose the coverage correctly and misses that the corner in deep left coverage is back and on top of Jared Cook’s wheel/out-n-up route.
My guess is when Hill comes off of the play fake, he’s just look at the safety get carried by the post and then assumes the wheel will be open without checking to see if there’s another deep defender there.
This is just poor QB play. He’s got all day in the pocket and misreads a simple coverage. He’s lucky the ball wasn’t picked off.
Lastly, I wanted to point out a play where he’s not trusting his reads enough.
So, this is a simple slant/flat concept on third and long. He starts his read on the weak side, where the slant and flat route are covered, then comes backside where Sanders is covered on the inside slant. But Cook comes wide open on the back-side slant — what would be his fourth read — for a first down.
You could argue the pressure is why he takes off here, but I thought he had enough time to step a smidge and let this go to Cook. Instead, he panics and runs for a yard on 3rd and 10.
This one isn’t nearly as egregious as the previous two plays, but it’s a play good quarterbacks usually make by trusting their reads and offensive line.
Hill’s got a ways to go before he proves to be consistently capable of making plays like this against a competent defense. The good news for him is he won’t have to face quite as challenging of a defense this upcoming week against the Falcons, even though they shut down Derek Carr on Sunday.
But until we see him be composed in the pocket and make sound decisions for the bulk of a game against a Denver-esque defense, the jury will continue to be out on him.
We’ll see soon enough if this was an aberration, or if these were his true colors.
What did you think of Taysom Hill’s outing on Sunday? 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, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.