Brian Allee-Walsh

Sean Payton is making a mountain out of Taysom Hill for the streaking Saints

The evolution of multi-versatile Taysom Hill in the New Orleans Saints offensive juggernaut is utterly fascinating.

I didn’t give Hill a position on purpose, even though he’s listed as the team’s No. 3 quarterback. But the 28-year-old former BYU quarterback is more than a QB, much more.

In six games with the NFC South-leading Black and Gold, who improved to 5-1 Sunday with a serendipitous 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, we have seen Hill play a variety of roles on offense and special teams. He plays:

Kick returner.

On all four core special teams units (all 20 snaps on special teams against the Ravens with two tackles), including upback on the punt team. On Sunday, he took a direct snap on a fake punt and picked up four yards on fourth-and-1 from the Saints’ 34.

He participated in 26 offensive snaps Sunday as a QB in shotgun formation and under center, H-back, slot receiver and wideout. He was credited with 35 rushing yards on six carries, including an 11-yard designed run as QB in the fourth quarter that led to a touchdown and a 21-17 lead.

He has become a fixture in the red zone offense, forcing opposing defenses to treat him as a QB, RB and WR depending on where he lines up. For instance, on fourth-and-goal from the Ravens 4 on their first possession, he was the pitchman on a botched flip to RB Alvin Kamara that resulted in a fumble and ended an incredible 20-play, scoreless drive that lasted 10 minutes, three seconds.

That’s why I refer to him as the Swiss Army Knife, or “SAK Man,’‘ because of his many uses.

He’d be a sixth man in basketball, a utility player in baseball. He’s a Kitchen Magician, capable of slicing, dicing, chopping and mincing. He’s a jack-of-all trades and master of none, at least for now while the Saints have first-time ballot Hall of Famer Drew Brees and Teddy Bridgewater as their two main quarterbacks.

Where he fits in the team’s future is anyone’s guess, though Coach Sean Payton obviously holds Hill in high regard after claiming him off waivers from the Green Bay Packers and promoting him to the Saints active roster Sept. 3, 2017.

On several occasions during Sunday’s broadcast, FOX announcers Chris Myers and Daryl Johnston pointed out that Ravens DC Don “Wink’‘ Martindale instructed his defensive players to treat Hill not only as a quarterback but also as a running back.

Simply, with the help of Payton’s fertile mind, Hill has given new meaning to the Wildcat package. I suspect very soon we will see Hill throwing a pass to Brees split out wide in the red zone, perhaps Sunday night when the revenge-minded Saints visit the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings (4-2-1) at U.S. Bank Stadium (NBC, 7:20 p.m.).

Hill also has me thinking about his expanded role with the Saints beyond this season. Even if Brees fulfills the second year of his two-year, $50 million contract next season, Hill figures to play a prominent role in the Saints offense in 2019, possibly as the backup QB if Bridgewater moves on in free agency after this season.

Hill also could make running back Mark Ingram expendable in New Orleans. Ingram’s contract expires after this season and he might become too pricey for Saints officials to re-sign.

He’s a relative steal this season at a base salary of $555,000 and would be an even bigger steal next season at $645,000.

Unquestionably, Hill could play running back or slot receiver for the Saints going forward.

He already does now, and quite swimmingly wouldn’t you agree?

Brian Allee-Walsh, a longtime Saints reporter based in New Orleans, can be reached at sports@sunherald.com.
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