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Saints vs Falcons: New Orleans QB situation front and center

Sportsnaut

Saints vs Falcons preview

The New Orleans Saints began the season adjusting to Drew Brees’ retirement.

Now they’re adjusting to the absence of his successor.

Jameis Winston must undergo season-ending surgery to fix a torn ACL suffered in a 36-27 victory against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday.

That leaves New Orleans (5-2) scrambling to determine who will start at quarterback against the Atlanta Falcons (3-4) on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome.

Taysom Hill competed with Winston during the preseason to succeed Brees and entered the season as the primary backup. But Hill has a valuable role playing a variety of positions that he would have to abandon if he became the starting quarterback. Additionally, he has been in concussion protocol since being injured 3 1/2 weeks ago and was limited in practice Wednesday.

Saints vs Falcons: Who starts at QB for New Orleans?

saints vs falcons preview: taysom hill
Oct 10, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; New Orleans Saints wide receiver Taysom Hill (7) is helped to his feet after being injured against the Washington Football Team during the second quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The other option to stand in for Winston is Trevor Siemian, who played well after Winston’s injury last week and is a former pupil of Falcons coach Arthur Smith as the Tennessee Titans’ emergency quarterback in 2020.

Hill or Siemian?

“That’s going to be the 6 million-dollar question,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.

There are actually two questions: Will Hill be healthy enough to play and if he is, who will Payton choose?

“(Siemian) did a good job (against the Bucs),” Payton said. “I thought he played with poise and made good decisions. It’s what you want someone to do when they’re coming into a game without having a lot of work.”

Siemian completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

New Orleans also learned this week that All-Pro wide receiver Michael Thomas, who hasn’t played this season after undergoing ankle surgery in June, suffered a setback in his rehab and won’t return in 2021.

The Saints rushed for 152 yards against Tampa Bay, the most the Buccaneers have allowed this season.

New Orleans could have more success rushing against a Falcons defense that yielded a season-worst 203 rushing yards in a 19-13 home loss to the Carolina Panthers last Sunday.

“They came in here and ran the ball,” Atlanta coach Arthur Smith said. “They were physical. They kept it in a lot of third-and-shorts.”

Smith noted that despite the problems stopping the run, Atlanta only gave up 19 points. But Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan passed for a season-low 146 yards.

Saints vs Falcons: Matt Ryan and Co. looking to get back on track

saints vs falcons preview: matt ryan
Oct 31, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts after a hit against the Carolina Panthers in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

“We’ve got to do more offensively,” Smith said. “We are in the National Football League, and we have to score more than 13 points.”

Like the Saints, the Falcons are dealing with the absence of a key receiver. Calvin Ridley announced before the game against the Panthers that he needed “to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing.”

“He is a great player,” Ryan said of Ridley. “He has the ability to stretch the defense. You try and utilize other guys when he is not up. We still have enough players.”

One of those potentially great ones is rookie first-round pick Kyle Pitts, who was locked up last week by Stephon Gilmore and had two catches for six yards. Pitts went for 163 yards on seven grabs against Miami the week before.

After a 1-3 start, Atlanta looked like it was putting things together in Smith’s first season with consecutive victories against the Jets and Dolphins before slipping against Carolina, which entered last week’s game having lost four games in a row.

“We have a long, long season ahead of us,” Smith said. “(We’re) not where we want to be, but we have a lot of football.

“We’ve got to find a way to execute better offensively. There’s no excuses. It’s the NFL. Things come up. We’ve got to find a way to win.”

–Field Level Media