Nick Fairley was a pleasant surprise. Sheldon Rankins impressed as a rookie. Delvin Breaux was fine, but injured. Nathan Stupar and Craig Robertson filled in admirably when starters were benched. You can make the case for Cam Jordan who was a beast as usual, but I’d argue that Kenny Vaccaro was the MVP of the Saints defense through fourteen games.
Vaccaro was suspended for the final four games of the season for taking Adderall, a substance he claimed to not know was prohibited. He could have chosen to play longer into the season and appeal the decision to unknown results, but with the season lost by Week 12, instead chose to sit out and accept the suspension, allowing him to be ready for Week 1 of 2017.
Through the eleven games he did play (missing Week 3 to injury), Vaccaro finished tying a career-high with two interceptions and setting a new career high with two forced fumbles. He had 50 tackles on the season, which extrapolated out to a full and healthy year would have been 73 tackles, a career best.
Vaccaro has had an up-and-down career in New Orleans so far, having a great rookie campaign in 2013 but then questionable character issues in 2014 causing a temporary benching.
Vacarro definitely struggled to stay sound vs Panthers read-option attack on Sunday. But he wasn't (cont) http://t.co/gyIv1cuIU7— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) December 10, 2014
@JeffDuncan_ you view this as a temporary benching to prove a point or a more permanent move? Hoping for the former.— Christopher Dunnells (@dunnellz) December 10, 2014
Like the rest of the Saints defense, Vaccaro didn’t have a great 2015. When new pieces were brought in around him and the departure of then-Defensive Coordinator Rob Ryan, Vaccaro was able to shine in 2016. Here is a great fan-made video of some of his 2016 highlights.
Hopefully Vaccaro will be able to build off a successful 2016 campaign in Dennis Allen’s second year as the Defensive Coordinator for the Saints. If the Saints are able to add a quality defensive end to help rush the passer, then Vaccaro can continue to take advantage of the mistakes of opposing quarterbacks.