METAIRIE — The New Orleans Saints quarterback play in their preseason opener might say more about the 2020 season and beyond than it does about the 2019 season.
Starter Drew Brees will play very little or perhaps not at all when the Saints face the Minnesota Vikings at 7 p.m. Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Brees needs minimal work in the four preseason games, but backups Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill can use all the work they can get.
Bridgewater would step in during the regular season if Brees were to miss any significant time and Hill, in addition to the multiple special-teams, running, pass-catching and blocking responsibilities he has, will receive periodic snaps at quarterback primarily when the Saints employ RPOs.
But if everything goes according to plan, Brees will take nearly all of the meaningful snaps in 2019.
The future, though, is far less certain.
Brees is 40 years old and playing in the final year of his contract. If he retires or plays elsewhere next season, Bridgewater, who’s also ticketed for free agency next season, could be his replacement.
Bridgewater was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets late last preseason. After playing in five games last season, spending an entire offseason getting up to speed in the Saints offense and being a year farther removed from major knee surgery in 2016, he has looked more comfortable and capable during training camp.
Regardless of whether Brees makes a cameo appearance or sits out Friday, Bridgewater “is certainly going to play a lot,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said.
“He had a real good preseason with the Jets (in 2018 before the trade),” Payton added. “I think he’s done exceptionally well here. I think that a second year into what we’re doing has benefited him.
“I love all the intangibles (he has) that are necessary to play that position. He’s real smart. He’s a fantastic leader. I mean, he’s a guy that players really look up to. He’s got some of those “it” things that you look for, those traits that carry onto the field with his teammates.”
Bridgewater said this is the best he has felt in his six years in the NFL, which includes two seasons starting in Minnesota and a Pro Bowl selection in 2015.
“I feel great mentally, physically, and spiritually,” he said.
Since there are only three quarterbacks on the roster, Hill figures to play a fair amount as well. He’s entering his third season in New Orleans after being claimed off waivers from Green Bay at the end of the 2017 preseason.
“I’m a lot more confident playing inside of the offense right now than I did last year (or) obviously my rookie year coming here,” Hill said. “I think the progression as a quarterback, you get more time on task inside the offense and you get more confidence getting up to the line of scrimmage, things start to slow down a little bit.
“By no means do I feel like I’m where Drew is and it’s a constant learning experience for everybody. That’s just the progression as a quarterback, but I’m definitely still learning.”
The Saints have 90 players on their roster, but fewer than that will play.
Several starters will rest as will some injured players, though Payton hasn’t identified either group.
Most of the positions up for grab for the 53-man regular-season roster are for backup positions, though second-round draft choice Eric McCoy, Cameron Tom and Nick Easton will take their battle to be the starting center from the practice field to the playing field Friday.
On offense, the competitions to be the primary backups to running backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray, wide receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. and tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk will be significant.
On defense the same will be true for positions behind ends Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport, linebackers Demario Davis, A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone and defensive backs Marson Lattimore, Eli Apple, Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell.
Additionally the defensive tackles and return specialists likely will pass through a revolving door on their way to the field.