It’s been a strange week for New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. He started the week preparing for two quarterbacks in Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts. Now he finds himself trying to figure out an explosive rookie with not much NFL tape. It’s a “unique” situation, to say the least.
Payton addressed the task of facing Hurts and the new-look Philadelphia Eagles’ offense and, rather expectedly, kept it close to the vest. He did reveal the possibility of seeing more designed runs and the importance of keeping “eyes” on Hurts at all times. Not just zone-read plays, either.
“But there is an element of the run game that will be important for us this week if we’re getting some design quarterback runs,” Payton told reporters on Wednesday. “So yeah, I mean, they’re different. And yet, we have to defend the defense that we see and then have good eyes and be smart enough to see what’s new that maybe we hadn’t seen.”
It’s a bit ironic considering all the comparisons between Hurts and Taysom Hill coming out of the NFL draft. Hill is expected to start his fourth consecutive games this week in relief of an injured Drew Brees. When the Eagles first selected Hurts, the thought process was that Doug Pederson was going to use him as Payton does Hill — and maybe even more as one report alluded to “Taysom Hill on steroids.”
Taysom Hill is expected to start his fourth consecutive game at QB for the Saints on Sunday vs. Philly. I'm told his three-game performance as the starter has only bolstered the confidence internally that he is the eventual heir apparent to Drew Brees' job.
— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) December 10, 2020
None of the speculations played out, but Hurts is now the starter in Philly. All bets are off. Pederson thinks Hurts’ mobility can be the difference.
“They haven’t seen this type of quarterback this season so we may, you may see more zone coverage,” Pederson said. “You may see maybe a little more man on the outside and spy a safety or a linebacker. There are all kinds of things that the teams will do. We have to be prepared for everything as coaches and then as players we just go play.”
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Payton Scouted Hurts Coming Out of College
No surprise here but Payton admitted to scouting Hurts coming out of college. The drive from Tuscaloosa (University of Alabama) is about four hours from New Orleans so he would have had ample opportunity to watch the former Crimson Tide quarterback in person. He also watched plenty of tape on Hurts from his time running the Sooners’ offense at the University of Oklahoma.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) April 26, 2020
“I remember his college film, I remember going through the interview process,” Payton said. “All of it, he’s someone that obviously won games. He transferred from Alabama and yeah, he was definitely one of the quarterbacks that we were paying attention to and making sure we researched and graded thoroughly.”
The Saints own the toughest defense in the NFL. They are No. 1 overall while ranking first in yards allowed per game (288.8), fourth in points allowed per game (20.1), second in rushing yards per game (76.1), fourth in passing yards per game (212.8). Not an ideal spot for Hurts to make his first NFL start.
“This is the number one defense, it’s no easy task,” Pederson said. “Obviously, he’s facing a really good opponent this week. It’s our job as coaches, it’s my job as a play-caller to try to help him that way and get him into the flow of the game, and then we’ll see what happens from there.”
Brees Still Not Practicing for Saints
Brees was missing at Saints practice for another day and remains on injured reserve due to broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Hill will almost definitely be the starting quarterback.
Meanwhile, New Orleans was down defensive tackle Malcom Brown (shoulder), defensive tackle David Onyemata (illness) and cornerback Patrick Robinson (hamstring). Yes, that Patrick Robinson.
PATRICK ROBINSON APPRECIATION TWEET ❕❕
While his stint with the #Eagles was short lived. This moment will live for eternity in Philadelphia.
Never gets old. pic.twitter.com/G6Zz5G9SrE
— Eagles Nation (3-8-1) (@PHLEaglesNation) May 5, 2020
The Saints also listed five guys as limited participants: DT Shy Tuttle (wrist), WR Deonte Harris (neck), T Ryan Ramczyk (elbow), CB Janoris Jenkins (knee), WR Michael Thomas (ankle), RB Latavius Murray (knee).
Thomas, arguably the best receiver in football, is trending in the right direction for New Orleans. Defensive end Marcus Davenport (concussion) and running back Ty Montgomery (hamstring) were full participants.
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