METAIRIE, La. – Apparently, Jameis Winston has taken his # 1 lesson from Drew Brees to heart.
Winston said earlier this off-season that the most important thing he learned last year as Brees’ backup at the New Orleans Saints was the value of “making the right decision” rather than trying to force things that weren’t there are. Indeed, Winston made a remarkable impression in the first three days of training camp with an efficient mix of quick, decisive throws and smart checkdowns, as well as the occasional deep ball.
“Listen, there is no check-down mentality,” Winston said with a smile as he quickly corrected the wording of a question. “It’s, ‘Take what they give you.’ Our coaches preach it. My bracelet says “Elite Progress.” We want to do this – me, Taysom (Hill), all quarterbacks. We want to be elite in our progress. “
The competition for New Orleans’ starting quarterback is still wide open after Brees retired this off-season.
Hill, 30, spent the first two days of training on the first string session, while 27-year-old Winston was on Saturday in the starting rotation. On the flip side, Winston started hotter Thursday and Friday while Hill performed better on Saturday.
Regardless of the daily scoreboard, it is clear that both quarterbacks feel more comfortable in the system. While Winston goes into year 2, Hill goes into year 4, starting four games as an injury replacement for Brees last season.
“Experiencing the relationship between Sean (Payton) and Drew gave me a good look at the system, but of course repetition is the most important thing,” said Winston. “This year I’ve probably got more repetitions in three days than in all of last year. So it’s an amazing feeling to be out there and have the opportunity to do exercises.
“It was fun and I think I get it. But of course my goal is to get better every day.”
The Saints’ longtime offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. said he was impressed with Winston’s “quick study” – but also with how deeply Winston has been immersed in his own self-exploration over the past year and a half.
Winston hasn’t shied away from the narrative that surrounds him after notoriously becoming the first player in league history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback in 2019 – then he was replaced by Tom Brady.
In fact, Brady is one of the quarterbacks that Winston has studied closely over the past year.
“Every year I get the chance to explore myself. But this year I’ve had so many people to explore,” said Winston. “I mean, Tom Brady was on an offense I played the year before. We had Matt Ryan on an offense with Dirk Koetter (former Bucs coach) in Atlanta. We had Drew Brees on that offense. And then,” we had Teddy (Bridgewater) in (a version of) Sean’s offensive in Carolina.
“I’ve seen four great quarterbacks run in these systems, so I got some things from them. I got some things that I learned from my experience of those attacks and of course from this more recent offensive with Sean. So it’s been an amazing year for me in terms of the overall growth in learning football. “
Hill, meanwhile, has made some physical changes along with his spiritual growth. Listed at 6-2, 221, Hill said he had slimmered in his torso while focusing solely on being a quarterback for the first time – while coming to camp for years past knowing he was could also be used as an RB / TE / WR / special team specialist.
Hill went 3-1 as quarterback last year. Hill has been a dual-threat QB since he was a star on BYU. But he struggled with fiddling and showed a need to make faster decisions and progress faster.
Surprisingly, Hill didn’t rely on his running skills to get him out of trouble as much as possible. Carmichael said he reminded Hill, “Hey, you’re still Taysom Hill. … don’t make this go away.”
“I think there are levels to (master the Saints’ offensive),” Hill said. “If you talk about understanding the offensive the way Drew or Coach did, I certainly don’t feel like I’m there. But every year you become more confident in what you do.
“I think my level of comfort within the offense is now higher (so) that you can spend more time (focus) on what the defense is doing.”
Payton admitted that the “uniqueness” of this QB fight is that the candidates’ skills are so diverse. But as quarterback coach Ronald Curry said, the Saints’ offense has always shown the flexibility to vary from game plan to game plan rather than being rigid.
“Our job is to give them the opportunity to do things that they are good at,” said Payton. “We’re going to do our best to give them the opportunity to be our starter. They both had a good offseason. And I think both of them are very respected in the locker room, not just for their skills on the field, but their leadership.” – and work ethic outside of the field. “