It was thought that when the New Orleans Saints drafted safety Kenny Vaccaro No. 15 overall in the 2013 NFL draft, he would slowly be integrated into the defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. It turns out that was the understatement of the year. So far this season Vaccaro has played every single snap on defense and even has 20 plus snaps on special teams as well.
Vaccaro, who is listed at 6-feet and 214 pounds on the Saints website, has impressed coaches and fans alike with his hard-charging, energetic style of play. Ryan confirmed that he is using the young Vaccaro much more than he has any other rookie in years past, saying “This kid loves football, and I think the more you put on his plate the more he wants.”
Head coach Sean Payton also praised Vaccaro and how he has handled himself through his first two games. “He has handled that very quickly and so to his credit, he is someone that works hard at it. He understands the game. He is very physical.” When a Super Bowl winning head coach commends a rookie safety for his talent, skill and football knowledge, that is something to take notice of.
With his athletic ability, versatility and football knowledge, Vaccaro has even drawn some early comparisons to the likes of Pittsburgh Steelers‘ future Hall of Fame safety Troy Polamalu. Saints’ ESPN blogger Mike Triplett reported that ESPN Insider and former NFL scout, Matt Williamson, saw a lot of Polamalu in Vaccaro. “A true jack of all trades that has to be accounted for on every snap, because you never know where he is going to be,” Williamson said. “Vaccaro isn’t as explosive as Polamalu, but he does offer similar versatility.”
Vaccaro was a great selection for New Orleans, and by pairing him with a defensive coordinator like Ryan, some of that energy and swagger on defense from past years will hopefully begin to resurface after a dismal defensive outing last season. It’s far too early to speculate on how far Vaccaro and the Saints will be able to go, but at this point, there’s no reason to think that he won’t help New Orleans get back to the playoffs this year.