Taysom Hill Proved He’s a Starting Quarterback

Taysom Hill finally got his shot to start for the New Orleans Saints and he did not disappoint. He showed good mechanics and accuracy and was routinely able to move through reads. He dealt well with pressure off of play-action, understood where his hot routes were, and his ball placement helped keep his receivers out of harms way. While it wasn’t a perfect game and he was inconsistent with his anticipation throws, it was a very good showing for his first start as a quarterback.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

(SN/Getty)

Reading the Defense

One of the more common pass game concepts that the Saints run is Dagger. It involves a clear out from the slot and a deep dig in behind it from the #1 receiver with a shallow drag from the receiver to the backside of the play. The clear out takes away the deep defenders and the shallow drag is designed to help hold the linebackers underneath which opens up space for the deep dig. This play shows the versatility that Taysom Hill brings to the quarterback position.

He did a really good job most of the game keeping his eyes up when moving in the pocket and getting outside. Taysom comes out of the play action and looks to locate where the underneath defenders are to see if they’ve gotten under the dig. As he diagnosis that, he feels pressure and has to climb up and out of the pocket. A really good indicator that he has a chance to become a legitimate starter is that he keeps his eyes up instead of relying on his legs. He sees that the dig has made its way across the field and delivers a really accurate ball on the move to his receiver.

This is that same Dagger concept but I want to use this example to show Taysom’s ball placement ability and his understanding of defenses and holes that appear. The Falcons here are bailing to a two-high safety look with the slot defender immediately turning his hips and bailing at the snap. Again, off of play-action, Taysom has to quickly diagnose this shift and process what that means for the play.

With that rotate and with no receivers releasing to the top of the screen, Taysom understands that that corner can now get under the clear out and the original middle field safety is freed up to rob anything in the middle. This means that Taysom needs to protect his receiver on the deep dig if that’s what he’s going to throw. He can’t lead him into the middle of the field because that free safety will be able to deliver a big hit or impact the throw. Taysom is able to diagnose all of that and throw to the back hip of the receiver to slow them down and prevent a big collision with the safety.

Taysom Hill showed a few good anticipation throws throughout the game as well. The guy might be 30 years old, but for a first start and his prospects of being a legitimate starter, these are some really big things at the quarterback position. Taysom consistently had a stable base which allowed him to be accurate and stay on rhythm to throw with anticipation. Here he’s seeing the space underneath the deep curl is open and begins his throwing motion just as his receiver is breaking down. These are the kinds of throws that can be problematic if you throw them late or aren’t seeing the defense well but Taysom was able to hit a number of these through the game.

He wasn’t perfect, but the throws he made were definitely good indicators. Here again, he keeps a solid base and begins his throwing motion just as the receiver is starting to break their route off and hits him at eye level for an easy completion.

Ball Placement

That ball placement is what I found most impressive.  It’s starting quarterback caliber. He’d throw back hip to slow receivers down and protect them from hits, give them balls that they could easily run with after the catch, and showed decisiveness and zip on a lot of his underneath and intermediate throws even with pressure in his face.

Understanding Blitzes

While he showed good understanding of where his hot reads were, there were a couple times where he didn’t realize he was hot. Based on what the defense is showing here, there are seven total potential rushers and the Saints are in an empty formation with no running back to help in pass protection. Taysom knows that if more than five rushers come, he has to get rid of the ball.

The Saints are running a half line slide here to the side with more potential rushers. From the center over, they’re sliding right to take care of the three “bigs” or defensive linemen to that side. Taysom Hill has to know that if either linebacker comes on a blitz to that side, he’s hot and has to throw to the area that that linebacker is blitzing from. The Saints have a drag from Michael Thomas built in that would be the route Taysom should throw since the linebacker is blitzing from that area. However, Taysom doesn’t look to check for a blitz and therefore doesn’t see the pressure coming soon enough. By the time he feels it, it’s already too late and he takes a sack.

Late Reads

While Taysom did show a number of anticipation throws, there were also some reads where he was a beat late. On his only turnover worthy throw of the day here, he’s seeing the window, but throwing it late. He initially wants the route out of the backfield to Deonte Harris but holds onto it for a beat too long. There’s a window for the drag to Thomas but it has to be thrown with anticipation. With Taysom being a beat late, the defender is able to close the opening and get a hand on the ball.

It’s a small sample size in his first start but there also may be some concern for his deep ball. Taysom Hill had no issue driving the ball on intermediate throws but the two times he tried to load up and throw deep, he ended up underthrowing his receivers. It worked out both of these times, but if he’s going to attack deep downfield, he might need to be a guy that does it on rhythm much like Drew Brees does. He doesn’t seem to be a guy that can throw it late on a broken play since he’s topping out at about 50-55 yards on these throws. That’s more than enough for normal fades and rhythm posts, but not quite enough to sling it late downfield.

Arm Strength

Running Threat

Of course, while Taysom Hill may struggle throwing deep late, he does bring his ability to scramble and run to the table which can’t be overlooked. The Saints really didn’t do anything fancy but ran this quarterback power lead play five separate times in the game. It helps the offense gain an extra blocker when the quarterback is the ball carrier and adds to Taysom’s ability and utility. In important situations, he’s able to get yards with his legs and adds another dimension to the Saints attack.

We knew Taysom Hill was a versatile player before this but I came away very impressed with his accuracy, clean mechanics, and ability to keep his eyes downfield when under pressure and outside the pocket. He’s always a threat on the ground but if he wants the opportunity to be a legitimate starting quarterback, he’s going to have to continue to put together games like he did against the Falcons. It wasn’t perfect, but it showed his ability and gave the Saints something to think about going forward. Maybe all that talk Sean Payton did about him being the next Steve Young isn’t so far off and the Saints will be set for years to come.

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NFL Film Breakdown: How the Saints use Pass Game Concepts Dagger and Y-Cross to Create Chunk Plays

A lot has been made of Drew Brees’ arm strength and the New Orleans Saints, but they’re sitting at 3-2 and are right in the thick of things in the NFC South. They’re scoring 30.6 points per game, and while there is a lot of short game and possession passing in the Saints offense, they also attack the intermediate middle of the field with deep digs and crossers in the Dagger and Y-Cross concepts. These those two schemes are very similar to each other and also work to open up space underneath for Kamara on check downs. Nothing is really new under the sun for NFL teams and passing schemes. Almost every team uses some variation of the big concepts like Drive, Shallow Cross, Stick, Mesh, or Dagger, but the inventive coaches find ways to tweak them, make them look different, disguise them so defenses can’t key on them, and even combine multiple concepts into one play; and that’s what Sean Payton does a good job of.

Note: If you prefer to watch a video breakdown, scroll to the bottom of this article.

https://cbssportsradio.radio.com/articles/sean-payton-discusses-drew-brees-new-orleans-saints

First, let’s understand the Dagger concept. Dagger uses a clear out with a deep dig behind it and typically a shallow drag or someone in the flats underneath it to give a high-low read on the defense. Dagger can be incredibly effective against any coverage. Its one downfall though, is that the primary read and goal of the play – the deep dig – takes a long time to develop so it puts a big burden on the offensive line. With the deep dig to attack the middle of the field, you’ll often see it called in 2nd or 3rd and long situations where you’re more likely to see two high safeties and softer coverage. That’s exactly what we have here with a 3rd and 15 for the Saints. Here, the Packers are in match cover 4. What that means is that for all intents and purposes, the deep routes are covered in man. Match coverage uses a lot of man on demand or MOD coverage. If the receiver lined up on the corner goes vertical, the coverage turns into man. If that receiver goes inside within five yards, the corner would pass that route off to the linebacker. This also applies to the nickel corners here lined up over the #2 receivers. If their receiver goes vertical, they carry. If they go inside under five yards, they pass it off. You can see just that at the top of the screen as the tight end Jared Cook immediately goes inside and the corner passes him off the linebacker while pointing and communicating an “in” call.

The safeties meanwhile, are giving support over the top and helping to bracket routes inside and out. You can see that the safety to the bottom of the screen quickly bails to the outside to bracket the receiver to the outside while the nickel carries him from the inside. Kevin King on the other side of the field is running a lock call so no matter what, he’s man on that receiver. This frees up Adrian Amos to peak and lean to the field side and help down the middle. This is exactly what the Dagger concept can exploit. Remember, we have a clear out with a seam or a skinny post from the play-side slot receiver. This receiver needs to get inside of the safety to his side so that he pulls him in coverage. The more people he can take with him on this route, the better. On the outside, we know that in match cover 4, the corner is going to be MOD on the dig because it’s deeper than five yards. So, we’re clearing the nickel corner and play-side safety and now have a one-on-one with the corner on the outside. Meanwhile, from the backside of the play, we have that shallow drag coming across the field. We talked about that being passed off to the linebacker and that’s exactly what happens. It keeps the linebacker underneath to open the window for the deep dig behind. It all works perfectly – except for protection starts to break down and Brees can’t hang in the pocket long enough to hit the dig as it’s breaking open. What the route concept has done though, is left Kamara one-on-one in the open field against that dime corner that passed off the shallow drag. A matchup that the Saints love every day of the week. It might be a dump off and check down off of a deep play concept, but it picks up the 15 yards on 3rd and long and moves the chains because it has stressed the defense vertically and opened space underneath.

Dagger is still really effective against a single high safety look as well. The purpose of the clear out is exactly the same. His job is to hold that safety with his seam route and pull the corner with him to clear space underneath for the deep dig. The Raiders are bringing extra pressure here so the middle of the field is really open but that means the running back has to stay in to help with the blitz so there is no outlet for Brees now. He’s going to have to stand in the pocket until the dig develops or until the shallow drag pops open. What’s great about these tight splits when running Dagger is that the deep dig gets inside leverage on that cover 3 corner which makes life a lot easier on both the quarterback and the receiver. The slot corner carries the seam up to the safety, the dig has leverage on the corner outside, and Brees can throw with anticipation here because there’s no linebacker to get in the passing lane and he can see the corners back turned in the middle of the field. The safety tries to rotate down on it, but it’s too late and a nice chunk gain for the Saints.

The Saints will run Dagger a couple times a game to attack the middle of the field. The concept stays the same and is effective against whatever coverage they might see. Even if it doesn’t go to the deep dig, it still gets their playmakers in space underneath.

So that’s Dagger. What Sean Payton has started to combine it with though is the Y-Cross concept. Let’s dig into that a little bit and then we’ll see how he meshes the Dagger and Y-Cross into one to add wrinkles to the playbook and give Brees a lot of options on the play. The Y-Cross is run by a lot of teams off play-action and with tight ends but you can run it out of any personnel grouping and off pure drop back as well. Against the Lions, the Saints run it out of 11 personnel with a rocket motion to the field. The tight end, or the Y, has the Crossing route. He is working for an inside release and then across the field and an angle at which he would run out of bounds at 18-22 yards downfield. Against zone, he would settle in the first hole after the Mike linebacker and in man he would continue to run across the field. Behind the Y-Cross, you have a deep dig route similar to what we saw on Dagger. There really are a ton of areas that are possible to settle in for both the Y-Cross and that deep dig route so it can be hard to recognize since it can be run five times and have the receivers all stopping in five different spots on the field. The concept on Y-Cross it is very similar, the Y-Cross pulls defenders and vacates space for the dig coming in behind it. The main difference here is that the outside receiver is running a vertical route and there’s no shallow drag coming underneath it. The first read is always checking for that vertical from the X receiver away from the Y-Cross. The quarterback then works to the Y-Cross, and then the deep dig behind it.

Now on a pure drop back you have the same concept, with the Y-Cross which can sometimes be checked into a hard dig if the receiver is feeling man coverage. You still have the dig behind it and the vertical from the X receiver. Brees could have again had the dig but checks it down to Kamara in the flats and ends up getting good yardage. With all that flow to one side, the Saints like to leak Kamara into the flats into the backside. Again, they’re just getting their best player in space on a linebacker or corner and letting him go to work.

Now that we understand what both Dagger and Y-Cross look like we can look at what the Saints do out of trips to combine the two concepts into one play and stress the defense in multiple ways. It’s an easy install into already established plays in the offense and allows versatility for attacking coverages and creating a big play. The Chargers are in a unique defense here where they’re playing man coverage underneath with one true free safety and then two deep seem defenders that are going to sit at the sticks and help bracket players from the outside on this 3rd and 14 from the Saints. The Saints call up their Y-Cross Dagger combination concept out of trips. The #3 receiver runs the Y-Cross, the #2 receiver runs that seam clear out that we saw in Dagger, and the #1 receiver runs the deep dig behind it. On the single receiver side you have the shallow drag that you normally see in Dagger as well. So really it’s just like running a Y-Cross with the additional receiver on the Dagger side when they’re in trips. You have Dagger from the outside guys and the dig plays into the Y-Cross so you’ve managed to combine both concepts. What this does is attack that deep safety with two verticals. If he runs to the Y-Cross, he’s leaving his corner out to dry down the seam, and if he stays with the seam like he does, it puts the linebacker in trail position in an impossible position. That seam defender to the boundary at the top of the screen is supposed to sit and guard the sticks, but if there’s nobody threatening, he has to get deep and underneath the Y- Cross. That player is #44 Kyzir White who plays linebacker. Clearly not a guy that’s used to protecting a deep zone of the field. Brees knows that, and attacks that matchup. If the Y-Cross wasn’t there though, the dig portion of the concept is about to break open in the middle of the field and the shallow drag has pulled out any underneath defenders. The Seam from Dagger concept held the safety to allow the Y-Cross to get open.

The Saints have run this combo concept a couple times this year. This time, against the Lions, the Seam is the one that’s open. Brees ends up checking it down to the shallow drag to Taysom Hill but let’s take a look at the bind it puts defenses in. The Y-Cross gets the safety’s his hips turned inside and the dig helps bring down the corner. The corner to the top of the screen jumps on the dig and with the safeties hips turned the wrong way, the Seam is open and there’s a ton of space for Brees to throw to. The Y-Cross has taken 3 defenders, the Dig has taken two, and that leaves 1-on-1 matchups for the rest of the routes – the seam, shallow drag, and leak from Kamara. Brees comes down to the shallow drag who settles in the middle of the field but the shot to the seam was there and available for a big play.

The Saints are right in the thick of things and have managed to survive a stretch without their best weapon in Michael Thomas while still being right at the top of the NFC South. Things are only going to improve for that offense upon his return. Sean Payton does a good job of combining concepts and attacking defenses in multiple ways. It creates easy outlets for Drew Brees and even when they don’t work, they end up getting Kamara into the flats. So, let’s not say Drew Brees is washed and the Saints are done. They’re just fine. With the wrinkles that Sean Payton assuredly has in store, the sky is still the limit for the Saints and they can absolutely still compete for a Super Bowl.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

Old Faces In New Places

David Johnson, HOU

David Johnson has channeled his inner Shawn Michaels and become the heartbreak kid for the past three years for fantasy owners. In 2017, he was the number one overall player on most pre-draft boards then got injured in the first game and that was all she wrote. Back to back disappointing seasons in 2018 and 2019, he now sees himself in Houston as their presumed lead back. Is this the year Johnson finally gets back on track or will he just disappoint again? I’m willing to bet he has a solid year in a Houston offense that, despite having marginal talent the past few years, has seen some decent seasons from running backs. Duke Johnson, RB2 on the Texans, has only had over a hundred carries once in his career and is mostly used as a pass catcher. Therefore Johnson is going to see a large number of the team’s carries. He also has had some nice moments as a receiver and with the loss of DeAndre Hopkins and his 150 targets, Deshaun Watson is going to have to spread the ball around. During his one great season, 2016, Johnson led all running backs in receptions and receiving yards. I doubt Johnson will ever reach elite status as he did before the 2017 season, but if Carlos Hyde can rush for over 1000 yards with the Texans, I’m ready to assume Johnson can get there as well.

Teddy Bridgewater, CAR

Teddy Bridgewater is a good quarterback, but not an ideal fantasy target. In Minnesota, he finished in the 20’s every season in fantasy points, and even in the five-game stretch a season ago with the Saints he finished 19th during that period in scoring for quarterbacks. He’s an accurate thrower and relies on quick throws to be effective. In fact, outside of the two Steelers backup quarterbacks from last year, no one threw fewer air yards on completions than Bridgewater. He is surrounded by studs like Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson, but as we all know the team is dependent on McCaffrey. They’re going to feed him the ball any chance they get and most likely will put a big dent in Bridgewater’s fantasy total, particularly touchdowns. Bridgewater’s floor is high, but he’s not going to be your QB1 unless something crazy happens. A concerning part of the Panthers offense is that they allowed 43 sacks in 2019 and that was with mobile quarterbacks in Kyle Allen and Cam Newton. Bridgewater can help alleviate those issues with his short passing game but in the meantime, I’m passing on him until I see how this offense operates under new offensive coordinator Joe Brady. 

Phillip Rivers, IND

I like Rivers in Indianapolis and think he’s going to do wonders for this team. That doesn’t mean I’m too high on him in fantasy. The Colts have a dynamic 1-2 punch at running back in Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor and will rely on Rivers to be a game manager. Rivers offers no running ability and is coming off of a season where he threw almost as many interceptions as touchdowns. He was seventh in the league in pass attempts in 2019 and there’s a tiny chance that happens again as he’s most likely going to finish outside of the top half in that category. Besides T.Y. Hilton, the Colts don’t have much experience at receiver and with an unconventional offseason, it could take a few weeks into the season for the passing offense to get in a rhythm. His offensive line is going to be much better in Indianapolis, but the Chargers are a much deeper unit in terms of skill position targets. He’ll be at his best in the short area of the field, getting the ball out quickly. Hilton and Parris Campbell are deep threats, but Rivers finished well below average in throws over 20 yards. I think ultimately Rivers will improve substantially in completion percentage, but see a dip in just about every other statistical category as he becomes a complementary piece rather than the star as he enters his 17th season in the league. 

Matt Breida, MIA

Breida escapes a situation in San Francisco where he was battling two or three guys for touches. Now in Miami, he’s really only battling Jordan Howard. One of the more underrated speedsters in the league, Breida has a 5 yards per carry average for his career and has the potential to increase his catch total with his new situation. While he doesn’t get mention with being one of the fastest players in the league, he had the fastest top speed (22.3 mph) recorded over the past few years and was a home run threat anytime he touched the ball. Jordan Howard has seen his targets and catches decrease every season as he’s been delegated as a pure ball-carrier, opening a big opportunity in Miami. Breida can sneak into that receiving back role due to his quickness and steady hands (only one career drop). There is one big knock against Breida and that is his lack of touchdowns. He only has 10 total touchdowns in his three seasons compared to Howard who has 32 (30 rushing) in his four seasons in the league. Breida will never be mistaken for a bell-cow back, but does well in the opportunities he gets. I do worry slightly about his injury history as it always seems that he’s battling some sort of ailment, particularly in his lower body. Despite this, I think Breida is RB1 in terms of fantasy for Miami and should hover around his career average of 630 yards rushing, but has the upside to double his reception total from last year.


Emmanuel Sanders, NO

Good news for Sanders: He’s not going to be the focal point of opposing teams defenses with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as his teammates. Bad news for Sanders: He’s not going to be the focal point of the Saints offense with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara as his teammates. Sanders slides in nicely as a solid second receiver with the Saints and proved last year with Denver and San Francisco that he still has some juice in him. I wouldn’t anticipate a huge drop in receiving yards (869 in 2019), but I don’t think he gets more than that either. Luckily, the Saints are a high scoring offense and Sanders will have his chances to score. He won’t set the league on fire, but I think it’s realistic he’ll get between 5 to 8 touchdowns. If TreQuan Smith can score on 27% of his receptions, I want to believe that a savvy vet like Sanders can carve out a nice role in New Orleans. I wouldn’t count on him to be a starter for your team, but his high floor makes him draftable as your WR3/4. 

Rob Gronkowski, TB

Let’s be honest, nobody has any idea how Gronk is going to look this season. The last time we saw him play, he was a shell of his former self, but still a dominant run-blocker and made a huge catch in the Super Bowl. His injury past is so long that the doctor has an entire drawer dedicated to him, but after taking a season off, in theory he should be as healthy as he’s been in years. Ultimately, he’s one of the best tight ends of all time and the duo of him and Brady have connected for 79 touchdowns, which is the fifth most for a quarterback-receiver combination. While Arians has never heavily incorporated tight ends into his offense, Brady has a long history of targeting that position and one has to think that the offense will adjust to Brady’s strengths. I believe he’s firmly entrenched as the Buccaneers third receiving option after Godwin and Evans and will be Brady’s go-to guy in the red zone. All things being said, with as deep as the tight end group is this year in fantasy, I’m going to say Gronk finishes between TE 7-11 this year. He’ll be a valuable piece in this new-look offense, but with two stud receivers getting most of the looks and an older version of the former WWE superstar future hall of famer, I’m not expecting huge stats this season.  

Austin Hooper, CLE

This offseason, Hooper cashed in big time and is now the second-highest paid tight end in the league. As he goes from one high-octane offense in Atlanta, he joins another in Cleveland littered with big names which I think lowers the ceiling on his fantasy value. He’s a skilled receiver and has seen his yardage increase every season of his career. He was the sixth-highest scoring tight end in fantasy in 2019 despite missing three games. While he’s had to contend with Julio Jones for catches in the past, he has to fend off an even deeper group in Cleveland as it includes two good running backs and another solid tight end with David Njoku. Luckily, Hooper has a high catch rate (78%) and had all six of his touchdowns from 2019 taking place in the red zone (five coming within the ten-yard line). He will more than likely see similar production this year as he did in 2019 which makes him a solid fantasy option. However, as I’ve mentioned previously the tight end fantasy group this year is really solid so just make sure not to reach on any of them. It’s possible what was good for sixth overall for tight ends last season might be fringe top ten this season.

Cam Newton, NE

While I won’t consider Newton to be a lock for the starting quarterback job, I do believe it would take an injury or unforeseen circumstance for him not to be the starter. ESPN predicts a rather mediocre 17 touchdowns, 10 interception season with him adding 358 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. While these numbers may seem low for a player of Newton’s caliber, I actually think this is a good prediction because we don’t know how he’s going to hold up coming off of two major surgeries. He’s never been an accurate thrower of the football and his supporting cast is average but he can still be a scoring machine. Not including last season where he only played in two games, he averaged 7 rushing touchdowns a season. Meaning that while he may not have the speed he once did, he still has the size and the tough running ability to punch it in at the goal line. One advantage that Josh McDaniels’s offense could have for Newton is the short passing game. Newton had his best year in terms of passing percentage in 2018 at 67% yet had an average completed air yards of just 5 yards, tied for tenth shortest. Just two years earlier, he averaged 8.3 air yards on completed passes (second highest in the league), but only completed 52% of his passes. It’s obvious that at this point in his career, he’s not going to be able to successfully push the ball down the field but can get the ball out quickly and to the right receiver. I think the team will use Newton as more of a game manager that will result in more wins, but not necessarily a huge fantasy season. He’s a good buy-low option based on his running ability and an ideal situation in New England.

If you liked this post make sure to subscribe below and let us know what you think. If you feel like donating and want access to some early blog releases and exclusive breakdown content or to help us keep things running, you can visit our Patreon page here. Make sure to follow us on YouTube for video breakdowns and Instagram @weekly_spiral and twitter @weeklyspiral for updates when we post and release our podcasts. You can find the Weekly Spiral podcast on Spotify or anywhere you listen.

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Taysom Hill – The Swiss Army Knife

While the Saints may have lost in heartbreaking fashion on Sunday to the 49ers, Sean Payton continues to get the most out of the Swiss army knife that is Taysom Hill. Similar to Lamar Jackson, we haven’t seen a player filling this kind of role in the NFL before. Taysom has 21 rushes for 140 yards, 14 receptions for 126 yards, 5 total touchdowns, and is 2/4 for 35 passing yards through week 14. That’s an average of 3 touches and 2.3 points a game. He averages 7.7 yards per touch and continually makes impactful plays. He adds a dynamic that teams have to spend time preparing for and while his package may be relatively small, he is usually excellent at executing it and making the right decision. You can call it a gadget or a gimmick, but if it works, why stop doing it? Let’s take a look at some of the things that the Saints ask of Taysom Hill and how he can be so effective with the touches he gets.

In looking at the last five games of Taysom Hill, some trends popped up. The Saints used him on the goal line or on 3rd and short eight separate times out of his 23 total touches. That’s 34.7% of the time. On those short yardage or goal line situations, Taysom ran the ball 83.3% of the time, was at QB 50% of the time, and when he was at QB in these situations, they ran QB sweep with motion or run action from Kamara 100% of the time. So if you see the Saints in 3rd and short, Taysom Hill is at QB, and Kamara motions – it’s going to be QB sweep. The Ravens do a very similar play with Lamar Jackson and it’s surprisingly effective for both teams despite its simplicity. Taysom is 3/4 on conversions when running the QB sweep in short yardage. The Saints window dress the sweep with motions but it’s always the same basic concept. There’s almost always a WR or TE tight to the line and they use them to pin the end while wrapping the playside tackle around this down-block to get up to the next level. This helps seal the outside on what would be a pretty challenging block for the tackle and gets one of your big guys up to a LB or DB.

You can see below it’s a basic outside zone scheme with a pin and pull from the WR and right tackle. This creates enough of a lane for Hill to get up and through to gain 3 yards on 3rd and 2.

The Saints basic QB sweep blocking scheme with Taysom Hill

To make the play more effective and look different, they’ll motion towards playside, away, and change up formations, but it’s all the same concept. Check out a couple of the times they ran it against Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and San Francisco. All the same pin and pull action and basic concept and all effective. When Taysom also has the ability to throw it – although he does so rarely — it makes the secondary less aggressive towards the ball.

The Saints also like to run the jet sweep with Taysom in short yardage situations. There are a couple reasons to like this. Usually – especially on the goal line – linebackers are going to be tighter to the line of scrimmage and less able to scrape over the top to prevent an outside run. If you can sustain your blocks on the outside, it can be a really effective short yardage play. You also increase the likelihood that you will see man coverage in goal line situations and you can sometimes get a man advantage with the motion and force the defense to communicate on a quick hitting play. If the defense doesn’t bump with motion, they’re then out of position to make a play on the ball.

You can see the differences in the gifs below in how the Falcons and 49ers defend the same play. Generally I prefer the jet push pass because it’s faster hitting and eliminates slowing down during the mesh for the handoff. The Saints have been using Kamara as a decoy a lot since he started to get banged up earlier in the year and continued that trend on their two point attempt early in the game against the 49ers. The jet sweep from under center allows for a harder run sell to Kamara, hopefully keeping the LBs and safety home until Hill has an angle to the endzone. Versus the Falcons they use their same pin and pull technique with the WR and tackle to help create a hole. Versus the 49ers, however, there’s no pin and pull, #71 Ramczyk whiffs and blocks nobody, and with a bump from the LBs on motion, the Saints are now the ones outnumbered on the play 3 to 2 on the playside.

First watch the sweep against the Falcons and notice the pin and pull from the WR and #71 Ramcyzk and the lack of flow from the defense on motion.

Compare this now to the 49ers who flow with motion while keeping their other two LBs home for Kamara and how #71, the right tackle, this time is rendered useless with a missed block and the TE #89 Hill is left to block two defenders.

The third most common play run with Taysom Hill is a crunch flat play action. Coincidentally, the 49ers run this a lot with their fullbacks and tight ends. You can check out the 49ers play-action game and use of full backs and tight ends in one of our first posts here. The Saints ran this same play against the Falcons and 49ers in back-to-back weeks and both went for 9+ yard gains. Taysom Hill lines up outside the offensive tackle away from the play and comes across the formation on the snap of the ball. Drew Brees fakes the handoff to Alvin Kamara and boots out to hit Taysom in the flat with absolutely nobody around him both times. It’s really effective and the Niners probably know that more than anybody. As good as the Niners were at knowing what was coming on the 2 point conversion attempt, they were totally lost on this play-action crunch flat to start the game. In fact, the Saints ran a lot of the same plays with Taysom Hill against the 49ers that they ran against the Falcons just the week prior. It’s surprising there weren’t any wrinkles, tendency breakers, or counters to these plays they’ve been running with Hill and setting up all year. I’m sure they’re in the playbook somewhere – maybe to be pulled out in a playoff game down the road.

Take a look at the effectiveness and similarities in both these crunch flat plays versus the Falcons and 49ers.

It’s clear the Saints don’t have a huge amount of faith in Taysom Hill as a passer. They limit his attempts and generally give him very simple reads and if the throw isn’t there, tell him to take off. Just in the last five games he’s had trouble identifying blitzes, making decisive reads, and making teams pay through the air. While Sean Payton talks very highly of Taysom Hill it’s clear that if they believed in him that much, he would’ve been taking the quarterback reps when Drew Brees was down instead of Teddy Bridgewater. Taysom’s run game ability is impressive – especially for a quarterback, but while he has a big arm, he’s not ready to make NFL reads and hasn’t evolved to be an every-down NFL ready passer.

Perhaps the package will grow but there are definitely bread and butter plays that the Saints run with Taysom Hill. While not terribly inventive, they are continually effective especially in short yardage. They’ve thrown in a couple zone reads, a reverse pass, as well as throwing him a number of quick flash screens on the outside. He’s being used on special teams and has lined up at QB, slot, H, running back, and out wide. Definitely a dynamic player and one you have to identify wherever he is on the field. He forces teams to do extra preparation and with the motions, run action, and threat of the pass, can make it hard for defenses to stay honest and defend against the threats he poses. The use of Kamara with him is particularly effective because of the eyes that both those players draw from the defense. It can create confusion and communication errors and open up big plays that Taysom Hill is athletic enough to exploit. The Swiss Army Knife might only have shown a couple of the tools available but you never know when a new gadget might pop out at just the right time in a big game.

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