TE, QB, special teams ace? Whatever you call him, call Taysom Hill a playmaker

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We honestly didn’t have a great feel for what the New Orleans Saints planned for Taysom Hill this year. After initially announcing his move from quarterback to tight end, that turned out to be more of a shift in focus than a full-time switch. Hill still lined up in the backfield during Week 1’s game with the Atlanta Falcons, though he didn’t throw a single pass, and ended up producing some of the team’s most explosive plays.

But as Dennis Allen had said over the summer, Hill was taking snaps at quarterback without spending the entire game there. Jameis Winston is the unquestioned starter, and Andy Dalton is his backup. That doesn’t mean Hill doesn’t provide some real value in his role as a do-it-all gadget player. He converted a first down twice as a runner, picking up an impressive 81 yards on the ground and scoring the game’s first touchdown on an 11-yard carry — which followed a huge 57-yard gain to set his new personal record.

He also played special teams with the punt return and punt coverage units, forcing a crucial holding penalty on Falcons long snapper Liam McCullough in the game’s final minute that moved the Saints offense into better field position on the ensuing possession. If McCullough hadn’t committed a hold Hill may have blocked the punt. Instead, Winston took over at his own 20-yard line (rather than the New Orleans 10) and lobbed a 40-yard pass to Jarvis Landry to flip the field. A couple of plays later, Wil Lutz booted a 51-yard field goal to retake the lead, and ultimately win the game. There’s a real possibility that things play out much differently had Hill not forced that penalty to start the sequence.

So he isn’t a quarterback, and he isn’t just a special teams asset. He also isn’t a conventional tight end. Hill played fewer snaps than tight ends Juwan Johnson (45) and Adam Trautman (25) against Atlanta, seeing 16 reps on offense. He carried the ball himself 4 times (gaining 57, 11, 9, and 4 yards) while running 4 routes (catching his lone target as a receiver to pick up 2 yards on 1st-and-10, which the Falcons admittedly defended well) and working as a blocker on 8 snaps.

That’s a unique distribution that sets him apart from the other tight ends on the roster, and taken with the greater context of his efforts on special teams and his dynamism as a runner, it explains why the Saints value him so highly. They have a package of plays in which he can help the team win games, and they’re going to continue giving him those opportunities until opposing defenses guard him better.

Hill gave it a good shot at trying out as a full-time NFL quarterback. That didn’t work out the way he wanted, but that’s okay. He’s being a team player and stepping back into the role that Pete Carmichael Jr. and the offensive coaching staff can work with. It’s earned him a contract extension with New Orleans that is paying him $10.1 million this year, per Over The Cap. If he can keep playing well when his number is called, that’ll end up looking like a bargain.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire