The New Orleans Saints haven’t publicly disclosed who their starting quarterback will be for Week 1, but “all signs point to” Jameis Winston winning out over Taysom Hill, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed the news of Winston’s QB1 status, and provided further details on how everything went down behind the scenes:
Saints head coach Sean Payton has been enamored of Hill, and saw him go 3-1 in four starts while relieving injured legend Drew Brees, who was out due to injury. Now, Brees is retired, which created a compelling QB training camp battle that Winston ultimately won.
It’s not necessarily so much how superior Winston is as a quarterback over Hill as it is the latter’s value to New Orleans’ offense at other positions. Hill can line up at tailback, fullback, tight end, wide receiver and under center. Having him as a movable chess piece, as opposed to playing only one position, makes plenty of sense.
Well, at least it did make sense while Brees was playing. Winston is being charged with the unenviable task of succeeding one of the greatest players in NFL history.
Although he showed out well in the Saints’ last preseason game, which may have helped him land the starting gig, Winston is a former No. 1 overall pick who hasn’t met the hype. The last time he started was for New Orleans’ NFC South rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. During that 2019 campaign, he threw a whopping 30 interceptions.
Between his error-prone ways on the field and a rather unsavory string of incidents off it dating back to his college days at Florida State, there’s plenty of reason to doubt Winston. Then again, he was drafted first overall for a reason. He has plenty of arm talent, underrated athleticism and can make every throw.
The larger concern for Payton, who doubles as the Saints’ play-caller, has to be the lack of elite pass-catching talent around Winston. Star wide receiver Michael Thomas is missing the start of the season, which means New Orleans is counting on a cast of unheralded skill players, and will be demanding a lot from running back Alvin Kamara in the passing game.
If Winston can avoid the myriad turnovers he’s committed in years past, he’s set up rather well to succeed overall. The Saints have one of the best, most experienced rosters in football, and a strong offensive line to protect him.
Another factor to consider is, again, how solid Hill looked last year. The fact that he pushed Winston as much as he did despite his value at other positions suggests Hill’s future as a pure QB may still loom.
Should Winston fumble this golden opportunity in the early going, it’ll be interesting to see how much patience Payton has with him before potentially turning to Hill.