<
>

Safety Kenny Vaccaro quickly getting up to speed with Titans

Safety Kenny Vaccaro studied the Titans' playbook relentlessly to be able to fill multiple roles. AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped back and looked to his left before throwing a deep pass to wideout Taywan Taylor. New safety Kenny Vaccaro had the deep coverage assignment and drifted back before making a leaping attempt at the interception, but the ball came out as he hit the ground.

"I was in the post, which I've never done really in my career, but I want to show people I can do whatever they ask me to. I saw Marcus' shoulders and I was gone," Vaccaro said about the near-interception.

Defensive coordinator Dean Pees didn't waste any time getting Vaccaro into action next to All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. Vaccaro, 27, worked out for the Titans this past Friday and signed him Saturday after starting safety Johnathan Cyprien tore his ACL on Thursday.

The coaching staff wants to see Vaccaro in the preseason opener against the Packers in Green Bay on Thursday (8 p.m. ET).

Vaccaro got more than what he expected in his first padded practice with his new team.

"I thought I was going to get worked in a little bit, but it was good. I got to go in there and set the tempo a couple of times. To come out here and be running around, man, I am just thankful," Vaccaro said.

The sixth-year safety set the tone by bringing physical play during team periods. Vaccaro ran a receiver over en route to the running back on one play. He forcefully wrapped up running back Dion Lewis on another.

Vaccaro knows Cyprien was an enforcer and feels compelled to bring the same kind of physicality as his fellow 2013 NFL draftee. He wants to show he can be interchangeable with Byard.

Byard and Vaccaro have the same agent. Getting to work alongside a safety of Byard's caliber is a welcome experience for Vaccaro.

"We know and respect each other. He's an All-Pro safety, a great player. I used to always have to come down in the box and guard. Byard, he'll come down and do it," Vaccaro said with a smile. "Him having that versatility and my background playing nickel, when you can do that you keep offenses not knowing who's coming down."

Vaccaro studied the playbook relentlessly to be able to fill multiple roles, which is something Byard sees as a necessity in Tennessee's scheme.

"I feel like in this defense you can end up anywhere on the field on any play. Having versatility to play in the box or on the post, you have to be able to do it all in this defense," Byard said.

Being versatile is a prerequisite for Pees, especially in the secondary, where he likes to move players around.

"Versatility is critical," coach Mike Vrabel said. "Any way we can move guys around will help us. It's great because it's a matchup league. Tight ends are matchup guys."

Although it's early in the process, Vaccaro seems to be a solid fit for the Titans' scheme. He was brought in as a last-minute replacement, but still feels he can play.

"I want to make the Pro Bowl. My story is not finished," Vaccaro said before going to sign autographs for fans.