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METAIRIE, La. Taysom Hill will make his first start as a quarterback this season for the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, a source told ESPN after practicing fully all week with a partially torn plantar fascia that has restricted him since week 10.
But the Saints offense may not be in full force yet against the Dallas Cowboys. Running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk are all listed as dubious with knee injuries.
Kamara practiced on a limited basis all week, a positive sign. But he is still on his way back after the injury that put him on the sidelines in the last three games. The good news is that fullback Mark Ingram is in full swing after he also missed last night’s loss to the Buffalo Bills with his own knee injury.
Meanwhile, Armstead did not train all week, despite returning to the line-up Thursday night. And Ramczyk, who has missed the last two games, trained on a limited basis on Monday before being kept out of training on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Defensive ends Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) and linebacker Kaden Elliss (hoarding) were ruled out.
The buildup of injuries has taken its toll on a Saints team that has lost four games in a row and dropped to 5-6 and is currently out of the NFC playoff picture.
They hope Hill can help revive their slack attack, even though he is not quite back to full strength yet. The versatile playmaker has been limited to an emergency role for the past two weeks. But he said Tuesday that he is feeling “much better” this week.
Coach Sean Payton just stopped by to name Hill the starter on Tuesday and said he would see how Hill felt on Wednesday. But Hill has prepared to start, with the exception of setbacks in his recovery.
“The last few days have been encouraging for me,” said Hill, who explained that a whole tear is actually better in most cases since a partial tear can be so constantly painful. But he said they have now begun to reach the point where he just has to deal with the pain and that “it does not limit the functionality.” That, of course, is the key, since Hill’s running ability is such a great asset to him.
Hill, 31, replaces Trevor Siemian, who went 0-4 as the Saints’ starter after initially earning a relief victory over the injured Jameis Winston in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hill’s opportunity comes a week after he signed a unique contract extension with the Saints, which is worth a base value of $ 40 million over four years, if he continues to play his usual role as a QB / RB / TE / WR – but can be worth up to $ 95 million if he becomes the team’s starting quarterback and reaches high incentives.
Hill went 3-1 as the Saints’ starter last season as a replacement for Drew Brees before losing to Winston in a battle for the job this summer.
Winston suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 8. But Hill’s own health has complicated his availability this season. He had a concussion in week 5 that put him on the sidelines through week 8.
It is unclear whether the Saints would have turned to Hill before if he had been healed. Siemian did a decent job during his first few weeks in the role. But the Saints offense has gone down for every week that passes – in part because of the wave of injuries.
Hill’s role with the Saints has been fascinating since the first time he demanded exemptions from the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted rookie from BYU in 2017. The 6-foot-2,221-pound began to play a key role on special teams that season. He then developed into a valuable offensive playmaker in his many roles over the years, with Payton insisting that Hill had the potential to become Brees’ long-term heir.
Hill completed 71.9% of his passes during his four-game starting streak in 834 yards, 4 TDs and 2 interceptions. He ran the ball 39 times in 209 yards and four touchdowns. But he also lost three fumbles during that stretch and struggled to hold on to the ball for too long as he got past his early readings or his pocket broke.
Hill has had a quiet season so far. He is 7-of-8 in 56 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He has run the ball 20 times in 104 yards and three TDs. And he has four catches on 52 yards.
For his career, Hill is 101-of-142 (71.1%) for 1,103 yards, 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He has run the ball 171 times in 913 yards (5.3 yards per attempt) and 14 touchdowns. And he has 34 catches on 388 yards and seven TDs.