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John DeShazier: Kenny Vaccaro will play multifaceted role in Saints defense

Vaccaro: 'I’m doing kind of everything'

There's nothing new under Kenny Vaccaro's sun this offseason, and that could be a good thing.

The New Orleans Saints' multifaceted safety will be as multi as ever in the defense of coordinator Dennis Allen, and to know anything about Vaccaro is to know that that's fine by him.

"With Kenny, twofold – we know he's a strong safety and he's also got the ability to play over a slot in a nickel role," Coach Sean Payton said Tuesday, after the conclusion of the first of three minicamp practices for the Saints. "Those have been the two main things that we've worked with him on. He's got some versatility."

"It feels like I'm kind of doing what I did in '13," Vaccaro said. "I'm playing over the slot, I'm blitzing, I'm covering tight ends – I'm doing kind of everything.

"I think if I have skill-set to do it, then why not do it? Why not be dynamic, because there aren't that many safeties that can do all those things. I think that's the way (Allen) wants to use me."

Indeed, Vaccaro at times has shown the ability to be used in all the ways referenced, and he displayed his versatility immediately.

A first-round draft pick (No. 15 overall) in 2013, Vaccaro immediately added a physical presence to the Saints defense. He also became an opening-game starter, and finished his rookie season with 93 tackles, an interception, six passes defensed, a sack and a forced fumble in 14 games (he suffered a season-ending ankle injury and missed the final two regular-season games, and both playoff games).

In 2014, he played in 15 games (14 starts) and had 113 tackles (second on the team), two interceptions, a sack, four passes defensed and a couple of special team tackles. And last year he totaled career highs in games played (all 16), tackles (136) and sacks (three), while adding five passes defensed, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

The growing process that has occurred through his first three seasons has been beneficial for Vaccaro.

"It's light years," he said. "That first year my head was spinning, I was out there just playing. Second year, I had to kind of learn how to take care of my body and play just the strong safety position. Now that I've got Year 3 under my belt, I'm a lot more comfortable."

That comfort should be beneficial to the Saints, as well as several defensive newcomers.

"We've got some great additions with (linebackers) James Laurinaitis, (Nate) Stupar and Craig Robertson," Vaccaro said. "But other than that, a lot of the guys are back and it's fun seeing the same faces."

The process of familiarizing with newer teammates, and improving chemistry with returnees, is a critical evolution that occurs during the offseason, one that Vaccaro and his teammates continue through minicamp, despite the absence of pads and contact.

"It's just the mental aspect of the game," he said. "You want to see guys finish, you want to see guys run to the ball, can they handle making checks in the heat – you want to grow together and just play together."

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