Saints Film Study: Position By Position Breakdown of Week 1
A mixed bag from the safety group, for a clear reason: Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd both played every defensive snap, with polarizing effectiveness. Vaccaro had an excellent game; the best of any Saints defender. We’ve been talking about how versatile of a weapon Vaccaro is, and how creative Dennis Allen can get with how Vaccaro is used. Vaccaro played a number of snaps effectively as a OLB, lining up beside or behind the D-line. He made plays as a pass rusher and in coverage, but his impact was most clearly felt in the run game. The Saints gave up quite a few chunk-yardage plays to the Raiders’ backs, and they would have given up a number more had Vaccaro not been such a ball hawk. He’s the best tackler on this team, and he’s so aggressive that he’s almost impossible to completely block out of a play.
Byrd, meanwhile, made a number of questionable reads and had an overall poor game. This is a frustrating trend. The Saints brought Byrd in to create turnovers and provide sound blanket coverage down field. On Sunday, he did neither. It’s not that the Saints expect him to force a turnover every game, but he only has one career interception as a Saint. That doesn’t cut it. Furthermore, the sound blanket coverage that Byrd has from time to time demonstrated was not on display against the Raiders.
Most notably he made a strange read on Amari Cooper’s 34-yard reception in the first quarter before the Raiders’ first touchdown. To his credit, Byrd recovered with a great angle and was able to make a touchdown saving tackle. But the Saints have two solid safeties waiting in the wings, and Byrd can’t continue to give up these big plays. Byrd took a questionable angle on Richard’s fourth quarter 75 yard run, and missed the ankle tackle. He wasn’t the only player at fault on the play, but he was the deepest safety and should be in a position to save the touchdown. At this point, Byrd simply has not played up to his contract or expectations. But it’s early in the season. He needs to pick it up.
Next: How Bad Were They, Really?