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New Orleans Saints Rookies NFL Weeks 12-14: Saints Still Marching

Over three quarters of the Saints' 2013 season are in the books, can the rookies survive the final stretch and playoff push? The second season is drawing near, take a look at where the rookie draft class stands!

John Jenkins in pursuit of Cam Newton
John Jenkins in pursuit of Cam Newton
Wesley Hitt

Welcome back to the Rookie Run-Down! Who Dat Nation is in the midst of an all important home stretch as the Black & Gold continue to work on locking up a playoff spot, NFC South crown, and a first round bye. At 10-3, the Saints are 2 wins away from achieving all of those goals and they have 3 opportunities to do so. The St. Louis Rams and lil’ brothers - Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers stand in the way of a 13-3 finish, with the Rams and Panthers hosting the Saints in back-to-back weeks. Based on what has occurred so far this season, the rookies have contributed when the opportunities have presented themselves and a couple of "statement games" would solidify them as stars of the future for the Saints!

Kenny Vaccaro, S

Young Mr. Vaccaro has quickly established himself as a fan favorite. He has a toughness that you want in a safety while also possessing the finesse to be used in different roles on the defense. In some games he is like a fifth linebacker, a fourth cornerback, or a third safety all in one series and I love it. Steady maturation and a strong work ethic will eventually lift Vaccaro into some quality company such as Earl Thomas, another University of Texas/DBU product. One of the most impressive skills that Vaccaro possesses that seems to be getting better is his coverage in the last few Saints games. There were concerns that he was Roman Harper 2.0 in coverage, but it looks like the ship has been righted.

Week 12-14 Performance: After missing the matchup versus the San Francisco 49ers, Vaccaro retuned against the Atlanta Falcons and contributed 9 total tackles and 1 pass defense. Vaccaro followed up his single game high in tackles by besting it with a 10 tackle performance in a losing effort against the Seattle Seahawks. Back at home in prime-time against the Panthers, the Hitman was in on 7 tackles to keep his season average hovering just below six per game. It has been noted around the Canal Street Chronicles community that the 2013 defense is much better at securing tackles. I don’t have an official stat (and feel free to post it in the comment section), but the eye-ball test says that is an accurate assumption.

Vaccaro’s season totals: Through 13 games (1 inactive) – 55 solo tackles, 16 assisted, 71 total, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 6 passes defended, & 1 interception

Terron Armstead, OT

All quite on the Armstead front. Armstead has suited up for 3 games this season, contributing on special teams.

Week 12-14 Performance: DNP

Johnathan Jenkins, NT

Jenkins will be a solid contributor for the Saints for many seasons to come. Unfortunately he must first supplant Broderick Bunkley as the starting nose tackle. In the meantime, continued hard work and a positive attitude will allow Jenkins to get opportunities to get on the field in a situational role until he eventually becomes the starter. In less than one calendar year, barring unforeseen injury or off the field issues, Jenkins will be our starting NT. His production has diminished with his snaps, but any chance he gets to play potential minutes seems to lead to a great day against the run for the Black & Gold.

Week 12-14 Performance: With a reduction in the snap count area, Jenkins didn’t record any stats against Atlanta and only one assisted tackle against Seattle. The big man followed up the lackluster stats with a big game against Carolina by recording two assisted tackles and two solo tackles, accounting for his best game from a stats standpoint. He was stout against the run and seemed to be in high spirits while encouraging his teammates.

Jenkins’ season totals: 11 solo tackles, 7 assisted and 18 total tackles

Kenny Stills, WR

After an exciting start to the 2013 season, Stills has cooled off, becoming a small piece of the collective Saints machine. Over the last 4 games, Stills has produced 6 catches for 58 yards. I believe it is reasonable to believe that, like most rookies, Kenny is hitting that late season wall. Keep in mind that up to this point in his life, football season for him was pretty much done besides post season in high school and one bowl game in college. It is now his job to push his body to excel at a time where the Saints can use a sure-handed receiver. I have faith that Stills will find a way to become effective in the passing game, if not over the next three weeks, then definitely during the playoffs. Let’s hope that Drew Brees is able to rekindle the spark he had with Stills back in September!

Week 12-14 Performance: It’s like Stills just isn’t being targeted, did he tick Drew off or something? In the Georgia Dome, against a weak Falcons secondary, I expected Stills to put up pretty big numbers on very few catches. Instead, he had 2 catches for 22 yards. He followed up that dud of a game with 1 catch for 3 yards on a bad night for the whole team against the Seahawks. He did manage to draw a penalty in the end zone on Richard "needs to shut up" Sherman. Moving on, another tasty looking secondary and not much from Stills – 2 catches, 22 yards, AGAIN!? After watching Mike Wallace roast Captain Munnerlyn and the Carolina Panthers secondary, I just felt that Stills would burn them a few times, but no, he only produced a couple of first downs. Thank goodness the Quiet Storm made sure that lil’ brother remembered his place.

Stills’ 2013 totals: 25 catches, 495 yards, 4 TD

Rufus Johnson, LB

I’m creating a personal award for Rufus Johnson: Mr. Practice Squad. See ya at camp fella!

Week 12-14 Performance: Practice Squad, DNP