Notebook: Packers rookie Taysom Hill flashes poise in directing winning drive

Ryan Wood
Packers News
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Green Bay Packers quarterback Taysom Hill (8) celebrates as he carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown during the second half against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md., Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.

LANDOVER, Md. - If quarterback Taysom Hill needed any indication about what the Green Bay Packers coaching staff thought of his debut last week, the undrafted rookie from Brigham Young need only look at playing time.

Last Thursday, against the Philadelphia Eagles, backup Brett Hundley played the entire first half. Joe Callahan played the third quarter and half of the fourth. Hill took the field with barely seven minutes remaining in what amount to mop-up duty.

Nine days later, against the Washington Redskins, it was Hill who saw more playing time than Callahan. The battle for the No. 3 quarterback spot is on.

“Taysom played very well,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “I feel like I’ve said that seven times already, but he played very well.”

Hill played the entire fourth quarter and wound up orchestrating a come-from-behind victory over Washington. His 23-yard rushing touchdown with 6:25 remaining proved to be the winning score in the Packers’ second consecutive victory of the exhibition season. Hill completed 6 of 11 passes for 49 yards and finished as the team’s leading rusher, with 38 yards on six attempts.

“I was grateful for the opportunities that I got tonight and grateful for the guys around me,” Hill said. “I felt like everybody came in and was cool, calm, which is hard to do in a situation like that. And we moved the football.

“One of the first things I said was, ‘Let’s go win this football game. Let’s go get the lead back. And that’s what we focused on. Again, I know it’s the preseason and we want to put good film and stuff out there, but I wanted to win that football game.”

What proved to be the game-winning drive began on the Green Bay 35-yard line. Hill, who worked with a four-wide receiver package due to injuries at the tight end position, flashed the poise of a man his age — Sunday is his 27th birthday.

He began the drive with a 17-yard completion to receiver Jeff Janis. He added a 10-yard swing pass to running back Devante Mays three snaps later. He slid for a gain of nine as linebacker Pete Robertson nearly leveled him. And then, after a 7-yard run by Mays, Hill took off up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown that featured two missed tackles and a wild celebration in the back of the end zone.

“They blitzed, they brought two guys up the A-gap, which left an opening for me,” Hill said. “They played man behind it, so no one was there for me. A great opportunity and we were able to take advantage of it.

“I think from college to the NFL my mindset has always been the same. I’ve had some coaches kind of harp on me to try to protect myself. But when I get in the red zone and I see the end zone, I’m going to do whatever I can to win. I wanted to get in.”

Hill’s run drew praise from all parts of the Packers’ locker room. Hundley, who played a terrific game in his own right, called it “awesome” and said Hill’s love for the game is plain to see. Wide receiver Geronimo Allison said he was going wild on the sideline.

And perhaps the best compliment came from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who wasn’t even that surprised after seeing Hill’s highlights from BYU.

“We were watching his highlight the other day,” Rodgers said. “I actually pulled it up for the group, when he hurdled that guy (in college). I think it was against Texas. He’s super athletic and he’s just a great kid. He’s been working really hard, and it’s fun to see those guys get out there and play well.”

TD time: When Aaron Jones caught the football and turned up field in the second quarter Saturday night, he saw nothing between him and his first NFL touchdown.

The Green Bay Packers rookie running back caught a 5-yard pass from backup quarterback Brett Hundley in the right flat against Washington. It was a quick-hitting play, designed to get the football in Jones’ hands before the defense could react.

Considering there was nobody around him, it couldn’t have worked better.

“It was a play call,” Jones said, “where it was like, ‘Hey, turn and get your head around. Turn around quick. It’s coming to you if they’re in man. This will be your touchdown.’ He called it before it happened.”

Jones, the second of three rookie tailbacks drafted this spring, showed Saturday night he’s still second in the hierarchy among the young trio. Fellow rookie Jamaal Williams started in place of Ty Montgomery, who did not dress because of an injury he’s only described as a “soft-tissue” ailment in his lower body.

A fourth-round pick, Williams finished with 12 yards on seven carries.

“We’ve got to run the ball a little bit better next week,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said.

Jones, a fifth-round pick, finished with 14 yards on three carries. Fellow rookies Devante Mays was the third tailback to receive snaps, finishing with seven yards on three carries.

More than his rushing, Jones flashed the receiving potential out of the backfield that excited the Packers before the draft, though his 5-yard catch was his longest on the night. He finished with 10 yards on four catches. After struggling last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Packers screen game still needs work.

But Jones was first among the Packers tailbacks to find the end zone.

“It felt great,” Jones said. “My first NFL touchdown. It’s a blessing.”

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