New Orleans Saints rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro is playing his best football yet as a pro, and it could not come at a better time as the team makes its push for the NFC crown before the playoffs start.
“I think (the Carolina game) was my best game as far as coverage-wise and being physical. I think it was just a complete game for me. And it was one of those games where it was a prime-time game with two teams with the same record. So everything gets (magnified),” said the Saints’ first-round draft pick from Texas, who has been a huge asset to the Saints as an every-down player this year because he does a little bit of everything in pass coverage, against the run and as a blitzer.
“I mean, they highlighted the plays that I made. But I’ve been doing that stuff all year. I don’t know why people made a big deal out of, ‘Oh, he was great in the slot.’ I’ve been covering the slot the whole year,” said Vaccaro, who said he had similar matchup against receivers like Brandon Marshall and Larry Fitzgerald earlier in the year — as well as underrated slot receivers like Seattle’s Doug Baldwin.
Look, we are not complaining that Vaccaro is now receiving the attention he deserves thanks to the national spotlight — but he’s right — he has been taking on tough assignments all year and playing extremely well given his rookie status.
Head coach Sean Payton agrees:
“I think number one, for a good safety, generally they play the run and the pass very well,” Saints coach Sean Payton said, when asked about Vaccaro’s development Thursday. “In college, he played a lot of nickel, but I think he’s having an outstanding rookie season. I think he is comfortable when he is playing man-to-man. I think he is comfortable supporting a run. He is physical. He is a strong tackler, so there is not a lot of leaky yardage. But being able to do both is important. I think he has done that.”
Vaccaro’s improved play could not come at a better time. As far as rookie defensive first-round picks go, fans will be hard-pressed to name another outside of a guy named Kiko in Buffalo who is having a bigger impact.
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