The jack-of-all-trades that is Taysom Hill was required Thursday night in the preseason opener to do two things that he had done, but never in the same game.
He learned last season that he could be a special team asset on several units, and he already knew he could be an effective quarterback. Against Jacksonville in the New Orleans Saints' 24-20 victory at TIAA Bank Field, he found a way to do both in the same game.
"I never have (done that)," Hill said, with a smile. "I was kind of laughing. We went down, we had a punt return, we tried to block the punt and then the very next drive, I started (at quarterback).
"So I'm running off the field, trying to get my gloves off, throw on the sideline. And then, luckily, we just took a knee because I wouldn't have touched or thrown a ball for quite a while before starting that drive."
Turns out that, all things considered, the second-year player handled each duty well.
He covered at least one kickoff and the aforementioned punt just before halftime, and on offense, he completed 8 of 9 passes for 72 yards and ran seven times for 52 yards (both game highs) and a touchdown.
"I thought he did some good things," Coach Sean Payton said. "He played well in the kicking game, he moved the ball offensively. There's a few plays where he took a sack, maybe got caught with the pressure and he had a chance to get the ball out. But overall, I thought he did a good job."
"I think, given the first preseason game, first time playing quarterback in the offense, certainly a few plays I'd like to have back," Hill said. "But overall, I was happy with the way we moved the ball up and down the field. And certainly happy with getting the ball in the end zone on that last drive. So, (there) are a lot of things that we can improve on, myself included. And (I'm) excited for the challenge."
The challenge that awaits is attempting to win a backup job for the Saints. And the battle for No. 2 might not just be between Hill and Tom Savage.
"I think there's this idea that the competition is he and Tom, he and Tom and yet, they're really competing within themselves to see if they're good enough," Payton said. "And the rest of it will sort itself out."
Hill hadn't played quarterback in a game-like situation since last preseason, when he was with Green Bay.
"It was a long time coming so I was definitely excited," he said. "Pregame jitters – I had a lot of high hopes and expectations for myself going into the game and it just felt good being back on the field playing quarterback, under center, doing all that. Overall, I was happy with the way we played."
Hill also got a chance to work on his sliding technique.
His athleticism prompted Payton to add some running plays and in the fourth quarter, on a designed run that gained eight yards, Hill took a slide at the end of the run to negate possible contact.
"This is a conversation that I've had ever since I was a freshman in college," he said. "I dealt with a lot of injuries in college and it was always, hey, how do we limit the shots that you're taking? How do we limit the contacts that you're getting with the defense?
"And I think at the end of the day, depending on the situation, I have an expectation in my head that I can make a play or I can make a move. And so, it's trying to temper my expectation of what I think I can do, and then being smart.
"I think if you have a one-on-one situation in the open field, then why not try to make a man miss? And if you have a bunch of guys converging, then that's certainly an opportunity to get down. And that's what we saw last night in the game."