Football

In the copycat NFL, no one can duplicate what this Idaho native is doing

Payton on controversial pass interference non-call: ‘They blew the call’

Sean Payton told reporters he was frustrated by the officials not calling a pass interference on the Rams late in the game that would have given the Saints a fresh set of downs. The Saints lost to the Rams 26-23 in overtime of the NFC Championship.
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Sean Payton told reporters he was frustrated by the officials not calling a pass interference on the Rams late in the game that would have given the Saints a fresh set of downs. The Saints lost to the Rams 26-23 in overtime of the NFC Championship.

NFL coaches constantly scour their opponents’ playbooks and rosters, trying to find the slightest edge they can copy and apply to their own team.

So after Pocatello native Taysom Hill broke out last season as a do-everything weapon for the New Orleans Saints, teams across the league combed their rosters and the college ranks for the next player capable of filling multiple jobs while taking up only one roster spot.

But no one has found the next Taysom Hill. And the Highland High grad and former All-Idaho Player of the Year keeps improving under center, leading to plenty of whispers that he could be the heir apparent to Drew Brees.

Hill turned in his most impressive performance as a quarterback Sunday in a preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers, completing 11-of-15 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Saints to a come-from-behind victory, 19-17.

He also ran for a team-high 53 yards and led a game-winning drive; he finished with a quarterback rating of 140.6. A perfect NFL quarterback rating is 158.3.

“Taysom Hill took it over and they completely outplayed us in the fourth quarter,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn told the Times-Picayune of New Orleans. “... Taysom Hill, I take my hat off to him. He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s a heck of a quarterback. He just took that game over.”

Hill, who turns 29 on Friday, entered training camp as the No. 3 quarterback on the Saints’ depth chart. Moving up from that spot remains difficult as backup Teddy Bridgewater is two years younger than Hill, has starting experience in the NFL, made a Pro Bowl with the Vikings and is the league’s highest-paid backup quarterback at $7.25 million a year.

Bridgewater struggled Sunday, finishing 5-for-12 for 40 yards with an interception while battling an undisclosed illness. Local media downplayed any controversy for the backup job behind Brees. But critics who dismissed Hill as a gadget player grow quieter by the day.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has consistently compared Hill’s skill set to Steve Young, and broadcasters echoed those comparisons Sunday as Hill ran the zone-read option, scrambled to extend plays and found receivers open down the field.

“He’s going to be an outstanding NFL quarterback,” Payton told The Athletic earlier this summer.

Young has embraced the comparisons.

“I’ll own that comparison. I’ll own it 100 percent,” Young told the Los Angeles Times last week. “I hope to be like Taysom Hill someday.”

A move up the quarterback depth chart could limit Hill’s snaps in other roles. As the No. 3 quarterback, the Saints dressed Hill on game days last season because of all the other places they could use him.

He became a breakout sensation, earning nicknames like the “Mormon Missile” and “Thor-terback.” Bleacher Report even created a satirical cartoon with Hill in the role of Tyler Durden in the movie “Fight Club,” telling a bland and forlorn Brees, “You were looking for a way to stop being boring and great, so you made me up so you could be interesting and great!”

According to Pro Football Focus, he played 182 snaps last season, including plays at quarterback (58), tight end (58), wide receiver (33), slot receiver (21) and running back (12). That’s in addition to his 339 special teams snaps, where he averaged 24.9 yards on 14 kickoff returns, blocked a punt and made six tackles.

Injuries ended four of his five seasons at BYU and forced him to go undrafted. But Hill’s athleticism remains off the charts even by NFL standards. The 6-2, 225-pound quarterback ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, faster than star Saints running back Alvin Kamara (4.56) and receiver Michael Thomas (4.57).

Hill has said he’ll embrace any role the Saints ask him to fill, but he’s made it clear he still views himself as a quarterback. The backup battle remains an academic one because as long as Brees remains in New Orleans, Hill will see the field only in his current jack-of-all-trades role.

Where the role begins and stops is anyone’s guess entering Year 3 of what New Orleans fans have dubbed, “The Taysom Hill Experience.” The Saints still have two more preseason games before their season opener on Monday Night Football against the Houston Texans on Sept. 9.

“Taysom is so versatile. He can do so many things,” Brees told Yahoo! Sports earlier this summer. “We’re still just kind of scratching the surface. We’re still just kind of learning what we can do with all that stuff.”

MORE IDAHO TIES IN THE NFL

Idaho alum and seventh-round draft pick Kaden Elliss led the Saints with six tackles Sunday. The rookie linebacker also led the defense for the second straight week by playing 38 snaps.

Emmett native Porter Gustin played 27 snaps and made four tackles, including one for a loss. The defensive end from USC signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent.

Former Boise State corner Donte Deayon came off the bench for the Los Angeles Rams in a 14-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday. Deayon intercepted Cowboys quarterback Mike White in the third quarter and also had one tackle for loss and one pass defended.

Jeremy McNichols’ flip into the end zone for a touchdown made the rounds on social media over the weekend. McNichols, a former Boise State running back, caught a 15-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill and flipped over a defender to avoid a tackle in the Tennessee Titans’ 22-17 loss to the New England Patriots on Saturday. He finished the game with six carries for 13 yards and three catches for 24 yards.

BOISE STATE

LB, Kamalei Correa, No. 44 Tennessee Titans

DL, Tyrone Crawford, No. 98 Dallas Cowboys

DB, Donte Deayon, No. 27 Los Angeles Rams

QB, Ryan Finley, No. 5 Cincinnati Bengals

C, Marcus Henry, No. 61 New Orleans Saints

S, George Iloka, No. 20 Dallas Cowboys

DE, DeMarcus Lawrence, No. 90 Dallas Cowboys

OL, Charles Leno Jr., No. 72 Chicago Bears

RB, Doug Martin, No. 22 Oakland Raiders

RB, Alexander Mattison, No. 25 Minnesota Vikings

RB, Jeremy McNichols, No. 30 Tennessee Titans

DE, Durrant Miles, No. 48 Atlanta Falcons

WR, Sean Modster, No. 14 Baltimore Ravens

OL, Rees Odhiambo, No. 63 Arizona Cardinals

C, Matt Paradis (Council High), No. 61 Carolina Panthers

WR, A.J. Richardson, No. 83 Arizona Cardinals

QB, Brett Rypien, No. 4 Denver Broncos

CB, Orlando Scandrick, No. 45 Philadelphia Eagles

CB, Jamar Taylor, No. 8 Seattle Seahawks

S, Darian Thompson, No. 23 Dallas Cowboys

ILB, Tanner Vallejo, No. 48 Arizona Cardinals

LB, Leighton Vander Esch (Salmon River High), No. 55 Dallas Cowboys

WR, Cedrick Wilson, No. 16 Dallas Cowboys

DL, Billy Winn, No. 90 Denver Broncos (injured/reserve)

IDAHO

G/T, Jesse Davis, No. 77 Miami Dolphins

LB, Kaden Elliss, No. 55 New Orleans Saints

G, Mike Iupati, No. 70 Seattle Seahawks

DE, Benson Mayowa, No. 91 Oakland Raiders

RB, Elijhaa Penny, No. 39 New York Giants

IDAHO STATE

OT, Brian Fineanganofo, No. 67 Cleveland Browns

TE, Josh Hill (Blackfoot High), No. 89 New Orleans Saints

HIGH SCHOOLS

DE, Eric Cotton (Columbia High), Tennessee Titans

OLB, Porter Gustin (Emmett High), No. 58 New Orleans Saints

QB, Taysom Hill (Highland High), No. 7 New Orleans Saints

Notes: Running back Jay Ajayi (Boise State) and offensive lineman Evan Smith (Idaho State) are currently free agents. … Free agent quarterback Brock Osweiler was born in Coeur d’Alene.

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