Wed Nov 25 8:24pm ET
By BRETT MARTEL
AP Sports Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Taysom Hill intends to treat the next couple of games on the New Orleans Saints' schedule as if the trajectory of his career as an NFL quarterback is in the balance.
''There are a lot of really great players that didn't get an opportunity in the NFL and these opportunities are few and far between,'' said Hill, who knows better after not getting his first NFL start at QB until last weekend - at age 30.
''So my mindset is to do everything I can to take advantage of every single opportunity,'' Hill continued. ''I'm preparing as hard as I can ... and each game is a big game for me.''
If this is indeed Hill's audition to succeed 41-year-old starter Drew Brees long term, then it's off to a promising start.
In a 24-9 victory over Atlanta last weekend, Hill completed 78.3% of his passes for 233 yards without an interception and ran for two touchdowns.
But one good game does not a career make, and Hill will have to show he can reliably and consistently keep the Saints' offense moving, with the next test coming at Denver this Sunday.
The fact that Hill last week became the primary quarterback during Brees' absence because of rib injuries caught many NFL observers off guard for a few reasons.
For one, the Saints also have former Tampa Bay starting quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and 2015 first overall draft choice Jameis Winston on their roster. And before last weekend, Hill had never started and had thrown a grand total of 20 passes since his NFL career began in 2017. And Hill is still looking for his first career touchdown pass.
In addition, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound, fleet-footed Hill has emerged as one of the NFL's most versatile and effective utility players. He's done everything from blocking punts to converting fake punts as an upback, covering and returning kicks, playing tight end and of course, substituting for Brees intermittently to give New Orleans' offense a change-of-pace option threat.
But Saints coach Sean Payton reiterated this week that Hill's evolution in New Orleans never eclipsed the original vision the Saints had for the former BYU quarterback when they claimed him off waivers from Green Bay.
''Make no mistake, when we claimed him off the film, it was as a quarterback,'' Payton said. ''Our vision was not as those other things. Those are end results after he was here.
''Here's what no one else is privy to, and it's hard,'' Payton said. ''What the fans and other people are privy to are the special teams snaps, the wildcat snaps, the tight end (and) receiver snaps. They don't get a chance to see the same snaps that (coaches) might see throughout the course of a year that take place that aren't necessarily game snaps.
Starting Hill over Winston ''wasn't by any means an easy decision,'' Payton added, ''because I feel like we have two capable and really good quarterbacks that are in the building already.''
The Saints are eager for Brees, who'll miss at least two more games, to return. But they also have sounded gratified to see Hill finally get his chance after persevering through an injury-filled college career and spending his first three full seasons as a pro graciously accepting - and executing - unconventional assignments.
''Everybody knows how talented Taysom is,'' Saints running back Alvin Kamara said. ''He deserves it.
Hill had major injuries in four of his five seasons at BYU: a knee injury, a bone fracture in his leg, a foot fracture and a hyper-extended elbow.
''My wife and I dealt with a lot of disappointment through college where pretty much every one of my offseasons but one were spent rehabbing from an injury,'' Hill said.
Since arriving in New Orleans, Hill said he has intently studied and sought to emulate the way the record-setting Brees prepares mentally and on the field. In the process, Hill said, he has gained in Brees a close friend.
''He's an incredible mentor,'' Hill said. ''So I've tried to adopt everything that that guy has done.''
Kamara said he appreciates Hill's intent to learn from the NFL's all-time passer, but also notes that Hill is by no means a carbon copy of Brees or any other quarterback, for that matter. And Kamara means that in a good way.
''Don't get me wrong. Drew Brees is a great person to learn behind. But Taysom is Taysom,'' Kamara said. ''They're not the same player.
Kamara light-heartedly portrayed Hill as giving a ''politically correct answer like, `I'm trying to be like Drew and model my game after Drew.'
''But Taysom, he has his own flavor when he gets in there. He has his own kind of thing,'' Kamara added. ''Maybe in his head he feels like he's being like Drew. But I probably would, too, if I was at quarterback.''
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 12
The Atlanta Falcons Defense should stay benched this week when the Las Vegas Raiders come to town. Las Vegas has a capable QB in Derek Carr, along with solid weapons such as Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, and Nelson Agholor. Meanwhile, Atlanta has allowed at least 20 points in nine of 10 games. The unit has also dealt with injuries throughout the season and that has hindered its overall strength. There are better options to start this week.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo is a terrific start this week against Las Vegas. Last week, the kicker hit three field goals, including two from over 50 yards. Overall, Koo has gone 24-for-25 in field goals this season and 18-for-21 in extra points. The Raiders rank in the middle against fantasy kickers, so he is a great starting option.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst is a low-end TE1 this week if active. The TE is currently dealing with an ankle injury and it remains to be seen if he plays. Hurst got nothing last week on two targets but has generally been decent this season. He has gotten at least 50 yards and six targets in six of 10 games this season, so he does bring the potential for some solid numbers. The Raiders are middle-tier against fantasy tight ends, so Hurst is certainly worth starting if he plays. Managers can only hope last week's performance was an outlier.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage is in the flex conversation this week. Due to Julio Jones going down with an injury last week, Gage had seven receptions for 58 yards on 12 targets. This week, Jones is still dealing with a hamstring injury and may be a game-time decision. If Jones doesn't play, Gage is the biggest player to benefit and would be a flex piece to start this week. Nevertheless, there is a bit of risk considering the WR has only posted over 50 yards in four games and doesn't necessarily get all the attention even when Jones is out. Still, he's the best guy to trust for fantasy over Olamide Zaccheaus and Christian Blake. The Raiders are middle-tier against fantasy wideouts.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is currently dealing with a hamstring injury and could be a game-time decision this week against the Raiders. Thus, if he plays, he will be a lower-end WR1 and certainly a riskier option to start considering his injury. Last week, Jones only managed two receptions for 39 yards on two targets. When healthy this season, the WR has seen his usual volume and put up fantastic numbers, including three 100-yard games. Nevertheless, proceed with caution this week on Jones and monitor his status closely. If he cannot play, Russell Gage would see an uptick in value.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is a low-end WR1 this week against the Raiders. It's worth noting he is dealing with a foot injury right now, but there is no sign that his status for Sunday is in jeopardy. Ridley posted five receptions for 90 yards on nine targets last week and has gotten at least 90 yards in five of nine games. He has also seen at least seven targets in seven of nine games. With Julio Jones ailing, Ridley could see more looks on Sunday if Jones doesn't play. Regardless, he remains a solid play due to his weekly volume and consistency.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II is a low-end RB1 this week versus the Raiders. The RB is coming off a season-low eight carries for 26 yards but has nevertheless remained decent on this offense. Gurley still has had double-digit carries in nine of 10 games and has rushed for over 50 yards in seven of 10 games. That volume and the fact that the Raiders allow the fourth-most points to fantasy backs makes Gurley a solid play. He is dealing with a knee injury, so his status is worth monitoring.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is a low-end QB1 against the Raiders this weekend. Ryan has been a bit streaky this season and posted 232 yards and two picks last week. Overall, he has thrown for over 300 yards in only three of 10 games this season and only has four games with multiple passing touchdowns. The Raiders allow the ninth-most points to fantasy QBs, so this is a good week to start Ryan if you have him.
Cincinnati Bengals DT Andrew Brown was signed off the practice squad to the active roster of the Houston Texans Wednesday, Nov. 25. Texans RB Scottie Phillips was also signed off the Houston practice squad to the active roster.
Jacksonville Jaguars DB Doug Middleton was signed off the practice squad to the active roster Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Denver BRoncos LB Mark Barron (hamstring) was activated to the active roster from the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Houston Texans DT Corey Liuget and WR Steven Mitchell were elevated from the practice squad to the active roster Wednesday, Nov. 25.
We still don't know who the Chicago Bears will start at quarterback between Nick Foles (hip) and Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) -- Foles didn't practice on Wednesday but Trubisky practiced in full -- but either way, the Packers Defense will be a strong start in all fantasy formats in Week 12. The Bears seem to be leaning towards Trubisky, who hasn't started since Week 3 and was benched for Foles in the same game. Chicago's offense ranks 31st in the NFL in total offense and scoring and 25th in passing, having failed to score more than 23 points in a game since Week 3. Both Foles and Trubisky have struggled under center in this offense in 2020, but Trubisky could give desperate managers in superflex leagues a bit more upside because of his rushing ability if he starts.
Dallas Cowboys DB Deante Burton and DB Rashard Robinson were promoted from the practice squad to the active roster Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Miami Dolphins G Solomon Kindley (foot) didn't practice Wednesday, Nov. 25. DT Raekwon Davis (thumb) and LB Kyle Van Noy (hip) were limited. LB Andrew Van Ginkel (wrist), CB Jamal Perry (foot), DE Shaq Lawson (shoulder) and S Kavon Frazier (shoulder) practiced in full.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said that wide receiver Adam Humphries (concussion) and safety Kenny Vaccaro (concussion) were both scheduled to practice on Wednesday. It gives both players a chance to suit up in Week 12 against the division-rival Colts. Humphries hasn't played suffering his head injury in Week 8 against the Bengals. The 27-year-old from Clemson has been a fantasy afterthought this year with just 22 receptions for 219 yards and two touchdowns in six games. In this run-first offense, he's third on the receiving pecking order behind A.J. Brown and Corey Davis. If Humphries returns this weekend, he should be avoided against the Colts Defense, one of the top units in the NFL.
New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (shoulder) was expected to be a limited practice participant on Wednesday in his return, with head coach Adam Gase saying Darnold will do "quite a bit." Darnold has missed the last two games with a right shoulder injury, but his return to practice bodes well for his chances of making a return this weekend against the division-rival Dolphins. The Jets would love to see what he can do with wide receivers Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder and rookie Denzel Mims all finally healthy, but Darnold remains questionable for Week 12 for now. Veteran Joe Flacco actually hasn't been terrible in losses to the Patriots and the Chargers, but Darnold will be the starter when healthy. If Darnold returns this week, he'll be a low-end QB2 for desperate fantasy managers.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR DJ Chark Jr. (ribs) didn't practice Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Fantasy Spin: Chark could be headed toward a questionable tag due to the nature of the injury. He'll need to be in lineups if active in what should be a pass-heavy matchup for the Jaguars.
Jacksonville Jaguars CB Sidney Jones IR (Achilles), CB Chris Claybrooks (core), OL Andrew Norwell (forearm), WR Chris Conley (hip) and OL Cam Robinson (illness) didn't practice Wednesday, Nov. 25. TE James O'Shaughnessy (knee), TE Tyler Eifert (concussion), S Jarrod Wilson (shoulder), LB Dakota Allen (ankle), LB Shaquille Quarterman (knee) and DT Abry Jones (ankle) were limited.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (shoulder) was a limited practice participant on Wednesday, while wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (illness) sat out. Murray suffered the shoulder injury in last Thursday's loss to the Seahawks, but he played through it and should be fine to face the Patriots in Week 12. Hopkins is dealing with a non-COVID-19-related illness, so he should also be fine to play Sunday. The All-Pro receiver has had some down games for his fantasy managers and will be facing a tough matchup with All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore this weekend, but he's still a top-five fantasy option at his position. Similarly, Murray should be treated as a top-five fantasy signal-caller.