Taysom Hill is a singularity in the Saints quarterback room.
Few quarterbacks in the NFL, much less in New Orleans, ever hold a key role covering kicks or trying to block punts.
But Hill's mobility is also a rarity for Saints quarterbacks in the Sean Payton and Drew Brees era. Nearly all of the quarterbacks who've played behind Brees are pocket passers; Hill is more capable than any of making plays with his feet.
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Hill's unique abilities make his battle with Tom Savage for the primary backup job a little different than the ones playing out in other NFL training camps.
"I think there is this idea that the competition is between he and Tom, yet they're really competing with themselves to see if they're good enough," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "The rest of it will sort itself out, and I mean that. It's unique that he played quite a bit last year, and we feel like he’s a core contributor, a real team player."
Savage, a pocket passer through and through who has only rushed for eight yards on 16 carries in his entire career, fits the prototype of most Brees backups: a passer first, second and third.
When he takes off on the run, it's as a last resort.
"Obviously, you look at Taysom and I, and we're two completely different quarterbacks," Savage said.
Hill, on the other hand, can make plays with his feet.
Fleet of foot and strong enough to blast through the line to block a punt, Hill is built more like a linebacker or a tight end than a typical quarterback.
"You look at him, and he's like Hercules," Savage said.
In Thursday night's preseason opener, Hill rushed for 52 yards on just seven carries. At least a couple of those carries were designed runs rather than scrambles.
"We kind of made a few adjustments on the fly, where we had a few reads based on how the defense is playing," Hill said. "So we had two designed QB runs, essentially, because I pulled it."
Hill's ability to make plays on the move is one reason the Saints claimed him off of waivers after he spent last preseason with the Green Bay Packers.
But it also comes with drawbacks. Hill is so confident in his ability to extend the play and make a throw downfield that he holds onto the ball too long at times; on Thursday, it cost the Saints field position when he took sacks on back-to-back plays.
"There's a few plays where he took a sack, got caught with the pressure, and he had a chance to get the ball out," Payton said.
It was just a preseason game.
Hill can also escape the pressure and find the open receiver, a skill he put on full display against the Jaguars and a talent that isn't always as useful on the practice field.
Wearing a red jersey means Hill can focus on going through the progressions.
"In practice, if an O-lineman gets beat or if there's a pressure or something happens like that, the D-line’s holding up," Hill said. "They’re not going to come. They’re going to let you go through your reads and progressions."
Hill scrambles at times during practice, getting out of the pocket so he can throw on the move, the ultimate weapon for any mobile quarterback and one he saw in action from Packers star Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay last August.
His job is to figure out how he can best employ those skills in the Saints' offense.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It has been a long offseason.
"I think everyone is aware that that is a part of my game that makes me unique and creates difficulties for the defense," Hill said. "I think that there's this balance of, 'Hey, we don't want to take away from you being you, but you know, let's try to limit any shots, or be smart when you do.'"
Hill is still learning when to cut and run.
"As a quarterback, if I come out and I see two safeties high and it's man (coverage), that's a prime look for a guy like me to find a running lane and going to get 10 to 15 yards," Hill said. "I would say my mindset is trying to find the open guy, getting the ball down the field through the air, and then trying to make defenses pay when they forget about me."