METAIRIE, La. -- Taysom Hill will make his first start at quarterback this season for the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, a source told ESPN, after he practiced fully all week with a partially torn plantar fascia that has limited him since Week 10.
However, the Saints' offense won't be at full strength against the Dallas Cowboys, as running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk will all be inactive.
Kamara practiced on a limited basis all week but is still ramping back up from the injury that has now sidelined him for four games. Backup running back Mark Ingram is a full go after he also missed last Thursday's loss to the Buffalo Bills with a knee injury.
Armstead did not practice all week despite returning to the lineup Thursday night. And Ramczyk, who had missed the past two games, practiced on a limited basis Monday before being held out of practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
Defensive ends Marcus Davenport (shoulder) and Tanoh Kpassagnon (ankle) and linebacker Kaden Elliss (hamstring) were ruled out.
The barrage of injuries has taken its toll on a Saints team that has lost four straight games to fall to 5-6 and is currently out of the NFC playoff picture.
The Saints hope that Hill can help revive their sagging offense, even if he is not quite back to full strength. The versatile playmaker was limited to an emergency backup role the past two weeks, but he said Tuesday that he is feeling "a lot better" this week.
Coach Sean Payton stopped just short of naming Hill the starter Tuesday, saying that he wanted to see how Hill was feeling Wednesday. But Hill has been preparing to start, barring any setbacks in his recovery.
"The last couple days have been encouraging for me," said Hill, who explained that a full tear is actually better in most cases because a partial tear can be continuously painful.
He said that they have started to reach the point where he just has to deal with the pain and that "it doesn't limit functionality." That is key because Hill's running ability is a great asset for him.
Hill, 31, replaces Trevor Siemian, who went 0-4 as the Saints' starter after he initially earned a victory in relief of the injured Jameis Winston in Week 8 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hill's opportunity comes one week after he signed a unique contract extension with the Saints that 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 could be worth up to $95 million if he becomes the team's starting quarterback and reaches lofty incentives.
Hill went 3-1 as the Saints' starter last season as an injury replacement for Drew Brees before losing out to Winston in a battle for the job in the summer.
Winston suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 8. But Hill's health has complicated his availability this season. He suffered a concussion in Week 5 that sidelined him through Week 8.
It's unclear whether the Saints would have turned to Hill sooner if he had been healthy. Siemian was doing a decent job during his first couple of weeks in the role, but the Saints' offense has regressed with each passing week -- in part because of the spate of injuries.
Hill's role with the Saints has been fascinating since they claimed him off waivers from the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted rookie out of BYU in 2017. The 6-foot-2, 221-pounder started playing a key role on special teams that season. Then he developed into a valuable offensive playmaker in his multiple 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 stint for 834 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He ran the ball 39 times for 209 yards and four touchdowns. But he also lost three fumbles during that stretch and struggled with holding on to the ball too long when he got past his early reads or the pocket broke down.
He has had a quiet 2021 season. He is 7-of-8 for 56 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. He has run the ball 20 times for 104 yards and three touchdowns and has four catches for 52 yards.
For his career, Hill is 101-of-142 (71.1%) for 1,103 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. He has run the ball 171 times for 913 yards (5.3 yards per attempt) and 14 touchdowns, and he has 34 catches for 388 yards and seven touchdowns.