Even though the Saints do not perform traditional practices during this part of the offseason schedule, the battle between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill to replace future Hall of Famer Drew Brees is the biggest story to emerge from New Orleans.
The difference between the two quarterbacks is strong. Winston is a pocket watchman with a big arm. Hill is the mobile signal caller who will run multiple read options and QB users, given his athletic prowess.
Saints coach Sean Payton noted that while adapting the offense, no matter which QB wins the opening concert, the basis of the scheme does not change.
Payton’s comment suggests that the core of the offense used for 15 years under Brees will be the basis for 2021, rather than scrapping the entire operation – say, if the mobile Hill won the job, which would mean more QB runs or the large-intestine Winston wins, which will involve more downfield throws.
Last season, when Brees was injured against the San Francisco 49ers, Winston participated in the competition, in part because he could better run the scheme that was installed with Brees that week. As Hill took over as starter over the next four weeks, Payton adjusted the game plan to cater for a more mobile QB. In his four starts, Hill rushed 209 yards on 39 attempts with four touchdowns.
We will probably see a similar plan from Payton this offseason on a much larger scale depending on who wins the job.
“There are certain things that you might just do specifically for one or the other. And yet there is still an overall philosophical approach that these guys will have learned to play offense,” Payton said. “It’s not a completely different game plan for each of them.”
The Saints have not completed traditional off-season training sessions this season, which has stopped most of the QB competition until training camp starts in late July. At that point, we’ll see what adaptations to the offense Payton is planning for each of the very different QBs.
With Winston and Hill both scheduled to be free agents after this season, it could be a year of adjustment for Payton’s offense, regardless of who wins the job in 2021, as the Saints seek the long-term compensation for Brees.