Saints’ celebrating Taysom Hill’s historic versatility and ever-evolving role
METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Taysom Hill’s teammates and coaches in New Orleans don’t envision other NFL teams emulating the unusual way the Saints have deployed their backup quarterback.
There are reasons, they say, that Hill is the first NFL player in more than half a century to have 10 or more touchdowns running (26), receiving (10) and passing (11).
“There’s not a lot of guys built to do the things he’s able to do. I mean, there’s just not,” Saints coach Dennis Allen said this week. “There’s been a lot of guys that are fast and athletic, but to have the combination of size, speed, athleticism, power — it’s unique.”
This week, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, asked for elements of the the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Hill’s uniform from last Sunday’s game to put on display. That’s when Hill caught his 10th career touchdown reception – and later threw his 11th career touchdown pass. He has 26 career TDs rushing.
The Saints are sending a ball from the game, the play sheet Hill wore on his wrist and one of Hill’s gloves.
Just three other players in NFL history — Red Grange, Charley Trippi and Frank Gifford — have had double-digit TDs rushing, passing and receiving, according to statmuse. Gifford, the youngest of the three, retired after the 1964 season. All three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. None are living.
This week, the 33-year-old Hill is preparing to play against the Minnesota Vikings, who are trying to figure out how best to respond to his presence at various spots on the field.
“He’s kind of all around the field,” Vikings defensive back Byron Murphy said, noting that while Hill often runs when he lines up at quarterback, he’s always a threat to pass. “Just a playmaker, I’d say. He’s just a guy that goes out there and plays football.”
The Saints embraced player versatility under former coach Sean Payton, who was Hill’s first coach in New Orleans in 2017. That has continued under Allen, a longtime Saints assistant succeeding Payton.
This season, the Saints also have begin using 324-pound defensive tackle Khalin Saunders as a running back in short-yardage situations. Last Sunday against Chicago, the Saints subbed Hill in for starter Derek Carr for a short pass play that was designed to go to Saunders in the right flat.
But Saunders attracted two defenders, so Hill looked left for tight end Foster Moreau, who also was double-covered along the goal line, before finding fellow tight end Juwan Johnson open over the middle in the back of the end zone.
To Saunders, Hill’s ability to play quarterback sets him apart from other strong, fast players in the NFL who take on multiple roles.
“I’ve obviously played with some guys that can play multiple positions,” Saunders said. “A lot of guys, they can run and catch, but the throwing part is what makes him different. That’s the first guy I’ve ever played with that truly, it’s not just like a gimmick. No, he truly plays all of these positions. … He’s one of a kind for sure.”
Hill has said that he shows up for work never quite sure of what he might be asked to do.
“I know I’ll either be blocking, throwing or running or catching,” Hill said with a grin earlier this year, adding that his role on the team likely will continue to evolve. “I’m sure as we get to Week 14, 15, 18, it’ll look different.”
In a Week 8 victory at Indianapolis, Hill had two touchdowns rushing on plays in which he took the snap in shotgun formation. Last Sunday, he was catching a touchdown pass in the right flat from Carr.
Carr, who is in his first season in New Orleans, describes himself as a longtime fan of former Saints QB Drew Brees and said he used to question from afar the wisdom of subbing Hill in at QB for Brees for a play here or there.
“But when I got here, I see why,” continued Carr, who ran onto the field to celebrate Hill’s TD toss to Johnson last Sunday. “I celebrate him every chance I get.”
Hill also continues to play upback on the punt team, meaning there’s always the threat of a fake, and he has been deployed to block punts as well, getting a hand on more than one.
“He truly has embraced whatever position or positions they have him at and because he’s embraced that he’s able to excel,” Saints offensive lineman James Hurst said. “He’s just said, ‘You know what, I’m just going to be the best football player I can be and that’s it … and I’m going to score points any way I can.’ It’s just exciting to have a guy like that and that attitude is contagious.”
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed from Eagan, Minnesota.
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