Sean Payton has not named a starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints yet, and there’s no clear timeline beyond “before we play our next game” on when he’ll do that. It seems the battle for the No. 1 spot will come down to Swiss army knife Taysom Hill and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers signal-caller Jameis Winston.
The way it’s looked so far, Hill has exceeded a lot of people’s expectations with his accomplishments as a passer, but Winston appears to have the overall edge. Winston had a statement night on Monday, completing 9-of-10 passes for 123 yards with two touchdowns before he was retired for the night.
But outside of those two, there’s another quarterback on the roster to keep an eye on: Ian Book, who the Saints drafted at No. 133 overall in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
In his first preseason appearance in the team’s 17-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the former Notre Dame passer was a bit up-and-down, completing 9-of-16 pass attempts for 126 yards with one interception. Of course, some of those ups and downs are to be expected from a rookie making the transition to the next level.
In comparison to the other quarterbacks that night, he was the most productive in terms of yardage, but failed to put a touchdown on the board and had the highest number of incompletions. Against the Ravens, Winston completed 7-of-12 passes for 96 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while Hill was good for 8-of-12 passing attempts for 81 yards with one interception.
“There’s a lot to coach (from) that tape,” Payton said after Book’s debut. “There’s a couple of plays where he’s holding onto the ball a little too long. It’s going to be a little faster than what he’s used to, so seeing him adjust to the speed of the game and getting through some of his progressions. But he’s handling it well. He’s got a little poise to him, which I like.”
Obviously, Book isn’t in competition for the starting gig right now and won’t be for the foreseeable future, just considering how things have gone so far and who the Saints have in front. But he’s a part of a second quarterback competition—one between himself and Trevor Siemian for the No. 3 spot. Book looks to be ahead to this point. We didn’t see Book on Monday night, as Siemian was the last quarterback to see action, completing 4-of-8 passes for 59 yards without a touchdown or an interception.
The final game of the preseason will be one to watch for Book and the entire Saints quarterback room in regards to how the final depth chart shakes out when New Orleans faces the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday. There have been reports of several other teams being interested in Book, and with what he brings to the table in terms of a developmental passer, the ability to make plans on the run, and the ability to not only evade pressure but to also be a playmaker as a runner in his own right, it’s hard to blame them.
In a situation where Winston seems to be the frontrunner and Hill is expected to continue handling multiple responsibilities on the field, having someone like Book on the roster will prove beneficial and will perhaps become something quite important down the road depending upon how the situation evolves and how Book progresses.