The drafting of first-rounder Kenny Vaccaro should relieve pressure off of veteran free safety Malcolm Jenkins, while making the New Orleans Saints secondary less of a mess in the process. This bodes both good and bad for Jenkins.
On the one hand, it’ll take pressure of Jenkins as Vaccaro can play that centerfield role. It won’t be as much of an island as it was when Gregg Williams wildly blitzed and left a ton of real estate deep, but it will still be nice to have a rangy player such as Vaccaro in the mix. On top of that, as Pro Football Focus founder Neil Hornsby noted in the eponymous Prime Sports Network podcast, Jenkins actually fared worse in the year after Williams left town.
Regardless, it will be helpful for Jenkins to have another partner in crime besides one-trick pony Roman Harper, someone that can actual cover from the safety spot and not just blitz effectively. Perhaps utilizing the three in situations that benefit each other — and involve Vaccaro never leaving the field — can help this pass defense finally climb out of the basement. The Saints defense has ranked 31st and 30th against the pass in the past two seasons.
However, this will also lean on an improvement from Jenkins, who ranked 88th out of 88 qualifying safeties in Pro Football Focus’ 2012 grades. Harper finished slightly better at 87th.
“Last year, our defense was missing the teeth that it usually has,” Jenkins said, via the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We were known as a defense that flew around, got to the ball, forced turnovers and hit people, but we kind of got away from those basics. So those have been just the key points.