The 49ers, like every defense that has faced the New Orleans Saints, will have an ongoing issue throughout Sunday’s game.
How do they account for Taysom Hill?
At 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, Hill is listed as a quarterback but is so much more than that for the Saints’ offense.
“That’s why it’s so effective, because he’s however they use him,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Hill on "49ers Game Plan." “You got these wildcat quarterbacks, and those aren’t quarterbacks. Those are running backs playing quarterback.
“That’s why you call them wildcat, because it changes the whole defense. And they used him like that for a while. But then you see him against Tampa Bay, and they treat him like a wildcat, so he threw it. That means, ‘Oh, no, he’s not a wildcat.’ ”
Saints coach Sean Payton has featured Hill in a variety of ways. Hill is equal parts quarterback, halfback, fullback, tight end, slot and wide receiver. He might be on the field with or without Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Hill has 26 carries for 141 yards and a touchdown. He also has six receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown. He has completed four of five pass attempts for 86 yards.
Shanahan said Hill’s versatility is the kind of chess piece he is always seeking to add to the 49ers’ offense.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are wide receivers who can do a lot of different things in the offense. And the 49ers in 2019 invested a third-round pick in Jalen Hurd, whom the 49ers envisioned being able to line up in a number of different roles.
“You look for this all the time,” Shanahan said. “We have some guys who aren’t exactly like that. But that’s what I like about Deebo. I love that Deebo is a receiver, but we can play him like a running back.
“Jalen Hurd. You guys haven’t seen him, yet. Hopefully, he’ll have some better luck next year. But what is he? He’s a running back. He’s a receiver for us. I promise we could use him as a tight end. That, to me, is a huge advantage in this league.”
Hurd has yet to make it to the regular season with the 49ers. He sat out his entire rookie season with a back issue.
Hurd was lost for the season this year when he sustained a torn ACL as he conditioned on a side field during the 49ers’ first practice of training camp.
"You’re always looking for someone like that," Shanahan said. "People try a lot and it doesn’t always work out. But when you get one, you see what you can do with it. And Sean is doing a great job with that right now."