The New Orleans Saints put their quarterback battle on hold this offseason, choosing to wait until training camp to pit Jameis Winston versus Taysom Hill. We’re now just a few weeks from the competition heating up in earnest.
Drew Brees’ retirement puts a question mark at QB for the first time in Sean Payton’s 15-year coaching career. At this point in the process, there seems to be no true leader in the clubhouse. Payton has said multiple times this offseason both QBs have a legit shot at winning the gig during training camp and preseason.
Saints pass rusher Cameron Jordan, who usually doesn’t reserve his opinion on any topic, joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Footballon Tuesday and talked up both quarterbacks, refusing to hint at who he thinks might win the job.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about who will put us in the best position to win,” Jordan said. “I do know that we have a baller in Jameis Winston, a guy who you know can release that thing in the air. It’s bombs in Jameis’ way. You know he’s gonna take deep shots, take a lot of deep throws. And at the same time, he’s had a year under Sean’s tutelage and watching Drew Brees, so he’s only going to get better in my mind. Then, you talk about Taysom, and you know after last year we went 3-1 with him, so you know we can win at a high clip with him. It’s going to be fun and interesting to see who ends up being the lead quarterback, if that is such a discussion. It’s beyond the pay grade, and I like to say not many things are beyond my pay grade.”
As we’ve noted multiple times this offseason, Winston and Hill are not similar quarterbacks. Winston is the drop-back pocket passer who likes to stretch the field — something Payton’s offense has lacked in recent years as Brees’ arm diminished. Hill is the dual-threat runner who gives the ground game a different dimension.
The Saints coach previously said that while each brings a unique skill set, the offense won’t be constructed vastly differently than what we’ve seen with Brees under center, but rather tweaked to coincide with what each QB does best.
For a defender like Jordan, the biggest void Brees’ retirement could create is in the leadership column. The QB has been the unquestioned captain for so long that seeing a new leader under center.
“I never expected him to retire,” Jordan said of Brees. “Honestly, I just thought he was going to retire (when) his kids entered the league. But when you think about what he’s meant to the team, what he’s meant to the city for so long, it’s sort of weird to know that he’s no longer going to be a part of the locker room. I guess it hasn’t settled in because we haven’t hit training camp yet. I think that’s where you’re going to feel the biggest difference is those hot New Orleans training camps where it’s 98 degrees and 10 percent humidity, it just rained that morning and yet at the end of practice you’ve still got to go 1-v-1s on a two-minute drill, to put it in perspective, and you still probably have conditioning after and you see Drew in the backfield. That’s where it’s gonna switch up, to know that now we’re cultivating a different quarterback leader.”
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For Jordan, other leaders must emerge, and he noted several defenders who can help fill the void.
“I think we have so much established in our locker room already,” he said. “I think our defensive leaders from Malcolm Jenkins to Demario (Davis) to Marshon (Lattimore) to Marcus (Davenport) to myself, we’ll carry the defense over. I think guys who’ve been growing through our offensive schemes, Tre’Quan Smith, the whole offensive line just touted … there’s so much veteran core leadership on our team. I do think that it hurts (not having Brees), but I definitely think we’re poised to be OK in terms of how we go about our leadership operations.”
Transitions from Hall of Fame quarterbacks rarely look pretty in the initial season. The Saints, however, have a veteran roster that can help buoy a slight regression in QB play.