Quarterback position to draw most attention for Saints in preseason play
While Saints head coach Sean Payton did not say who will start or which quarterbacks will play or how much against the Minnesota Vikings Friday night, it would not be a surprise if Drew Brees is a spectator.
As the preseason has evolved, NFL teams have evolved over the years in how they approach the exhibition games in how they prepare for real games.
That includes a far lesser role for starting quarterbacks.
Some teams go as far as not to play starting quarterbacks at all and understandably so.
While timing and game action is important, when you have a proven, veteran quarterback, do you really have to see him in a game that does not matter with the risk of injury?
As a result, the clear focus of the preseason will fall on Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill.
Sean Payton saw to that by releasing J.T. Barrett last week, leaving New Orleans with just three quarterbacks. There is no doubt how the regular season roster will look at that position, barring injury.
Payton did say Wednesday that Bridgewater will play a lot. He is the highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL. Bridgewater turned down an opportunity to have a good shot at being a starter in his hometown of Miami to remain in New Orleans. That tells you about his faith in his future with the Saints and about how the Saints perceive him.
As a starter with the Vikings in 2014-15, Bridgewater was good. He completed 64.8 percent of his passes with 28 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. His quarterback rating was 86.95. He was 11-5 as a starter in Minnesota and led the Vikings to a playoff appearance in 2015.
Since then, Bridgewater has played in just six NFL games, making one start, in the season finale for the Saints last season while playing with a host of reserve players.
Does he still have the game and ability he displayed in Minnesota before a devastating knee injury in 2016?
While his mobility may not be what it once was, Brees has flourished without having much mobility.
Bridgewater is just 26 and makes 27 in November.
Payton says Bridgewater has done exceptionally well in training camp.
Hill is entering his third year in the league. He is 28 and he turns 29 later this month. Hill has thrown just seven passes in his NFL career, utilized more as a runner (37 carries, 196 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2018) and as a kick return and kick coverage specialist.
The question is whether Hill has the skill level to become a starting quarterback in the NFL or even a good No. 2 quarterback.
Most of the questions surrounding Hill concern decision making and accuracy.
His mobility is obviously a gigantic plus. His arm is a big one. He can make all of the throws. It is all about the first two qualities to determine just who the Saints have as a quarterback.
We all know that Brees is in the final year of his contract.
The future possibilities are intriguing.
Brees can have another elite season and lead the Saints to a second Super Bowl championship. That is a real possibility if this team can remain healthy. Then, he could ride off into the sunset in his 40’s on the coattails of winning it all.
Brees could see his ability and productivity decline while the team declines and he could choose to depart to retirement due to the inability to perform at the level he is accustomed to with a team pointing in the wrong direction.
Brees could have a good season and get the Saints close again, as they have been the last two years, but fall short of the ultimate goal of winning the Super Bowl.
In the last case scenario, it would be likely that Brees would want to continue playing. In the first case scenario, he may still choose to continue playing, based on his performance still being at a very high level.
The second scenario would be one that would seem to facilitate his departure.
I don’t know about you but I cannot envision Brees wearing any other uniform than the black and gold.
It is not out of the possibility if the Saints would opt not to spend a huge sum of money to retain him beyond 2019.
It is also quite possible that the Saints would do so if Brees would choose to return.
Regardless of what happens and I don’t even think Brees is quite certain as to what he will do beyond 2019, it is time to start looking to the future, hard as it may be to fathom not having Brees taking snaps for the Saints.
As a result, finding out more about Bridgewater and Hill in game conditions is of paramount importance to the future of the franchise. That will be the focal point of these four preseason games.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…