Jameis Winston vs. Taysom Hill: Is the New Orleans Saints’ QB race over?


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Winston had a significantly better night than Hill in New Orleans’ second preseason game

Did Jameis Winston just take a big step toward taking ownership of the New Orleans Saints’ starting quarterback job over Taysom Hill?

While the Saints’ 23-21 win over Jacksonville on Monday night came during an NFL preseason matchup — exhibition contests come with their own expectations, and the reality teams aren’t playing starters vs. starters full time — Winston significantly outperformed the former BYU quarterback Hill against the Jaguars.

The competition to replace future Hall of Famer Drew Brees has, for the most part, been a pretty even battle between Winston, the more experienced veteran, and Hill, the dual-threat utility player. In the Saints’ preseason opener, both quarterbacks had their successes and struggles. Winston has led New Orleans on more touchdown drives in preseason play than Hill — by a 4-to-1 margin, however.

Here’s why Monday’s game, though, gives Winston the latest edge, and what appears like the inside track to the starting position.

After Hill started the Saints’ preseason opener, Winston earned the start against Jacksonville and got New Orleans on track offensively early. New Orleans coach Sean Payton said what impressed him about Winston’s night was “the explosives.”

“I thought they pressured (Jameis) on one play, and he was able to kind of quickly switch protection and get into a route for a touchdown,” Payton told reporters. “I thought there were some really good exposures there early on, and I thought we handled it well.”

Here’s how each of Winston’s three possessions went:

“I’m focusing on execution,” Winston said postgame. “As long as I’m executing the right way, my eyes are in the right place, and I’m making the right decisions, I can live with it.”

Here’s how each of Hill’s six possessions went:

“It’s hard to really give you an evaluation without seeing the film but, just like any other game, there’s plays that I would like to have back,” Hill said of his game. “I think there’s some good stuff that we did and continue to build on and get ready for the season.”

In the Saints’ preseason opener, both Winston and Hill each accounted for an interception as New Orleans turned the ball over six times. This time, the Saints did not turn the ball over. That was a huge plus for both quarterbacks and New Orleans as a whole.

Winston was much more efficient on the night and showed more poise in the pocket, particularly under pressure. His two touchdown passes were beautifully executed, and he looked like the kind of talent worthy of his five years of experience as a starter in Tampa Bay.

Hill eventually got some points on the board, including a touchdown on his final drive, but he struggled early, and those two third-down sacks disrupted his rhythm on his first two possessions.

Neither quarterback ran the ball, which is more puzzling with Hill, who looked more like he was trying to force himself to use his arm to get out of tough situations rather than utilize his abilities as a runner.

Payton said postgame there is no timetable for choosing a starting quarterback for Week 1 of the regular season. Depending on how Monday’s performance is put into consideration, among with a variety of other factors, consider it a big win for Winston in the race to replace Brees.

“When we know what direction we are going, we will let you guys know. We’re not going try to anticipate saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be midweek or next week,’” Payton told reporters. “That’s, I think, the best way for us to handle it. It’s kind of how we’ve always handled something like this, but I was pleased with not just the quarterbacks. I was pleased with how we played as a team for the most part.”

Until something becomes official, the focus will be on the Saints’ third — and final — preseason game, and how the two quarterbacks perform in practice. New Orleans wraps up preseason play by hosting the Arizona Cardinals this Saturday at 6 p.m. MDT.

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