On a steamy August evening in New Orleans, the Saints hosted their first home game since 2006, whether it was preseason or regular season, without Drew Brees on the roster.
The quest to replace Brees took center stage for much of the offseason and preseason, as the quarterback competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill continued, with the former earning the starting job.
During the Saints’ 23-21 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday night, Winston looked like a work in progress, while Hill still looked like a work in progress.
Despite Winston’s outstanding performance, Saints head coach Sean Payton did not name a starting quarterback or set a timetable for doing so after the game.
“I don’t have a timeframe. When we know what direction we’re going, we’ll let you guys know. We’re not going to try to anticipate saying hey it’s gonna me mid-week or next week,” Payton said. “But I was pleased with not just the quarterbacks but how we played as a team for the most part.”
Finding burgeoning wide receiver Marquez Callaway for a pair of highlight-reel touchdowns, Winston completed nine of 10 passes for 123 yards with a 157.5 QB rating as he led the Saints to 14 points over three drives.
Hill came on at the end of the first quarter and played into the second half, compiling a line of 11-for-20 passing for 138 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions and a 93.3 rating.
It was a huge stride ahead for Winston in the QB1 battle.
“I haven’t started a football game in so long, so I was just so excited to get an opportunity to start and lead the pack,” Winston said. “It was exciting and the rhythm was great.”
Winston looked comfortable and assured in his first start since joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. He completed his first four attempts, including a stunning long bomb into double coverage that drew a pass-interference flag and was hauled in by Callaway for a 43-yard touchdown.
While the play bolstered Callaway’s credibility in a crowded Saints receiving corps, it was also a bright start for Winston.
Winston made a strong statement with his drive, which anticipated an outstanding performance overall.
Winston completed his first five passes before a drop halted the Saints’ second drive.
On the Saints’ third offensive drive, Winston completed all four of his attempts, three of which went to Callaway, who pulled in his second touchdown with a jaw-dropping, one-handed grab that strangely overshadowed Winston’s magnificent ball.
Hill stumbled as Winston marched against the Jaguars defense.
Hill’s throws were usually low line drives, and even when he had time to scan the field, his body language often indicated that he was uncomfortable and rushed. On the same drive, he had a few positives, the majority of which went to Lil’Jordan Humphrey, who turned a short-yardage grab on the outside into a 25-yard gain and then caught an underthrown lob in traffic for another 25-yard gain. Later in the game, Humphrey flew through the air to collect a second-half touchdown pass from Hill.
Winston has completed 16 of 22 throws (72 percent) for 219 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in two preseason games. Hill has 219 yards passing on 19-of-32 passing (59 percent), one touchdown, and one interception.
It’s impossible to compare apples to apples in the preseason because it depends on who you’re playing with and who you’re playing against.
Winston, on the other hand, was fantastic on Monday. He didn’t appear as if he should win a quarterback race, but he did appear as if he could still be the great quarterback the Buccaneers had hoped for if he could just reduce the turnovers.