Saints training camp previews: Quarterbacks still led by record-setting Brees
(This is Part 1 of a seven-part series previewing the Saints position by position heading into training camp.)
Position: Quarterback (4)
Drew Brees, Tom Savage, Taysom Hill, J.T. Barrett IV
Overview: Brees remains the most important player on the team as he has been for each of his previous 12 seasons in New Orleans. He’s in position to break Peyton Manning’s
NFL record for career passing yards somewhere around Week 5. The Saints let former backup Chase Daniel leave in free agency (Chicago) and replaced him with former Texan Savage to provide an experienced No. 2, but as always the loss of Brees for an extended period would be devastating. No Saints backup quarterback has thrown more than 39 passes in any season since Brees arrived in 2006, and neither of the quarterbacks drafted by the team — Sean Canfield (seventh round, 2010) and Garrett Grayson (third round, 2015) — worked out.
Savage, who’s entering his fifth NFL season, is the primary backup for the short term, but an unlikely successor to Brees, who’s 39. Coach Sean Payton is intrigued by the athleticism of Hill, who was claimed off waivers from Green Bay at the end of last preseason. Hill got a few snaps on special teams and wide receiver last season, but no one knows whether he’s capable of playing quarterback in the NFL. Barrett isn’t your typical undrafted free agent, having started 44 games and winning 38 of them at one of the elite programs in college football (Ohio State).
Starter at the end of 2017: Brees
Other returning player: Hill
Subtractions: Chase Daniel
Additions: Savage, Barrett
Player to watch: Brees
Game plan: Keep Brees healthy
The Saints have built a top-flight offensive line to protect Brees, and last season they lessened the burden on him with a rejuvenated running game. He responded by completing an NFL-record 72 percent of his passes. But New Orleans needs to get newcomer Savage up to speed in a hurry just in case.
After Hill’s first off-season with the organization, the Saints want to use training camp and the preseason to see what he is capable of at quarterback. Can he be the No. 2 in the near future or possibly even Brees’ eventual successor? No one knows at this point, but we should have a better idea of his quarterback potential by the end of this preseason.
As for Barrett, he might have trouble making the team except on the practice roster, but his performance in the preseason games will bear watching. If Hill falters, Barrett’s chances of sticking around go up.
Don’t expect to see much of Brees in the preseason, but the pecking order and performance of the other three in the four practice games should be educational.
Quote to note: “There’s a reason they put Week Five on Monday night. I don’t think any of us are dummies, but (we’ll) just take it one game at a time. I just try to think about obviously taking care of business one day at a time then as the season rolls around, you take it one week and one game at a time. Eventually those things add up and they stack up and then you are in a position to do it. There’s so many people that are a part of that. There’s so many things that come into play with that. I’d rather reflect on that stuff down the road and for now just focus on one day at a time.” –Brees on the prospect of breaking Manning’s record.
June 13: Quarterbacks
June 20: Running backs/fullbacks
June 27: Wide receivers/tight ends
July 4: Offensive line
July 11: Defensive line
July 18: Linebackers
July 25: Defensive backs
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. His blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists and Louisiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. You can follow…