So the news Friday from the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport — that Hill and not Jameis Winston will replace the injured Brees at quarterback Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons — shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, even if Hill has thrown all of five passes this season and only 18 over his career (completing 10 of them).
ESPN reports that Hill, 30, has taken all the first-team snaps this week in place of Brees, who suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers and is out indefinitely. Not only that, but Winston will not be part of any offensive packages unless needed because of injury, according to ESPN. The Saints, apparently, are going all in, though Payton would not confirm the news to reporters Friday.
Later in the day, the Saints placed Brees on IR, which means the veteran and future Hall-of-Famer will miss at least three games.
The Saints signed Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft, to a cap-friendly one-year contract in April after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers declined to re-sign him following one of the more boom-or-bust seasons in recent memory. Winston had 33 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in 2019, with three games of at least 400 yards passing but also five games with at least three interceptions.
Despite that inconsistency, Winston has something Hill lacks, namely five seasons of NFL starting experience. Hill, meanwhile, has been used all over the field — as a kick returner and on special teams coverage units, as a running back and as a wide receiver. But he has never started at quarterback.
This year, Hill has 34 carries for 186 yards and a touchdown plus six catches for 74 yards and another score. He has also fumbled four times in those 40 touches, losing two of them.
Winston took over for Brees in the third quarter Sunday and completed 6 of 10 passes for 63 yards while also getting sacked twice. The Saints scored 10 points with Winston at quarterback, though seven of them came on a three-play drive that featured three runs and began on San Francisco’s 22-yard line after a muffed punt.