Hello Saints fans, the Rookie Rundown is back with a review of the Saints five 2013 draft picks’ performance through two weeks of the regular season.
A quick explanation of the break in this series: I was in my last two semesters of school and had to shift my focus there. As of September 9th, I am done and will give this series as much attention as I have available while providing great content centered on our 2013 rookie draft class. So, without further delay, here is the first regular season installment of the Rookie Rundown!
First up is the live wire, swagger-for-days safety, Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro came to the team with first round status and hopes that he wouldn’t disappoint. Through small skirmishes with teammates, Vaccaro established himself as player to be reckoned with. He has earned, in my opinion, a nickname – "The Hitman"!
Preseason Recap: From his first snap in the opening preseason game versus the Kansas City Chiefs, Vaccaro demonstrated his attitude about football, fly to the ball. Throughout the 4 preseason games, The Hitman was second on the team with 18 total tackles and promising contributions on special teams.
Week 1 & 2 Performance: In Week 1, Vaccaro continued his efforts in a Saints uniform with solid play on opening day. All Vaccaro managed to do against the hated Falcons was make 5 solo tackles and come up with a glancing tip on a 4th and goal pass that helped seal the game. For those who were not sure before, it has been proven that the kid can play at this level. In Week 2, Vaccaro continued his standout performance with a solid game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With the exception of one long pass play that he was badly beaten on by Vincent Jackson, the young safety was active and aggressive. It is worth noting that the play was called back on a Bucs penalty. The Hitman delivered a bone-jarring hit on Jackson later in the game. Welcome to the New Orleans Saints Kenny Vaccaro!
Terron Armstead, OT
Terron Armstead was drafted in the third round of the draft with hopes that he could be the solid left tackle that every team wants to have protecting their QB. His combination of size and speed make him a prime candidate to be molded into the Saints LT of the future and Who Dat nation is hoping that this will be the case for Armstead.
Preseason Recap: Armstead’s preseason was a mixture of good and bad. There were plays where he demonstrated that he could move his feet and be useful in the screen game, but then he would get beat on a pass rush. As is customary in preseason, he saw extended playing time in games 1, 2, and 4 and very little in the 3rd game as the starters played as much as 3 quarters. What stands out about his performances for me is one play – the Seneca Wallace sack/fumble which resulted in a Raiders TD. I give Armstead half the blame because he was badly beaten and Wallace gets the other half because he or the ball should have been gone already. To sum it up, there are areas of opportunity and he has the time available to get better.
Week 1 & 2 Performance: Inactive/DNP
Jonathan Jenkins, NT
Jonathan Jenkins was once considered a first round prospect leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, but those thoughts were derailed by rumblings of weight control issues. Coming out of the University of Georgia, Jenkins demonstrated the ability to hold his position in the middle of the 3-4 defense and this appealed to New Orleans due to a recent scheme switch. With a savvy trade, the Saints traded back into the 3rd round and snatched Jenkins up as a center piece for the new defense.
Preseason Recap: Jenkins made a big splash in the preseason, tallying his first sack as a Saint in the his first game. He would appear in all four preseason games and prove to be a disruptive force in the middle by collapsing the pocket and creating a pass-rush that few expected. Jenkins finished the preseason with 11 total tackles and 2 sacks, impressive for a rookie who was overlooked by many.
Week 1 & 2 Performance: In Week 1, Jenkins continued to impress with solid play in the middle. After starter Broderick Bunkley was forced to leave the game with an injury, Jenkins filled in nicely. While he only tallied 2 tackles, he helped shut down the running lanes in the middle of the field, forcing the Falcons to run outside for any substantial yardage. It has been revealed that Bunkley will miss several weeks with his calf injury, so Jenkins saw much more playing time in game 2. The only positive in having players miss playing time is the opportunities that others are given to develop. Jenkins is making the most of his chance by chipping in five tackles in two games.
Kenny Stills, WR
Kenny Stills left college as what was considered a possession type of receiver. Though Stills clocked a 4.32 at the combine, in college, he never really demonstrated an ability to stretch defenses and make big plays downfield. The best thing in Stills’ arsenal was his catching ability and Drew Brees loves sure-handed receivers.
Preseason Recap: In his first preseason game, Stills put the league on notice that he would be a key contributor to the most explosive offense in football. Against the Chiefs, fans got a mixed bag of good and bad from Stills with spectacular sideline catches and drops on routine fly patterns. Throughout the rest of the preseason, Stills chipped in with 9 catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns. At times it seemed that Stills and Brees were developing a strong connection that will blossom into awesome.
Week 1 & 2 Performance: After putting the league on notice in the preseason, Stills delivered a typical rookie performance by providing flash but not a lot of substance. 3 catches for 96 yards is very Joe Morgan-like, but stretching the field is only a part of what Stills will be needed to do. Against Atlanta, he never found the room to make the catches that he has shown he could make. In the game versus Tampa Bay, he all but disappeared for most of the game. To Stills’ credit, Brees rarely connected with anyone besides Jimmy Graham (10 catches), Darren Sproles (8), and Marques Colston (5) against the Bucs, so a pass for week two may be in order. The Saints welcome the Arizona Cardinals to town in week 3, so his time to shine could be coming soon.
Rufus Johnson, LB
Preseason Recap: Johnson played sparingly late in games and never provided the team with a reason to keep him on the active roster. He was waived and cleared, the signed to the practice squad. By all accounts, he will be available if an injury puts the team in need of a linebacker later this season.
Week 1 & 2 Performance: Practice Squad, DNP