The New Orleans Saints' improved defense suffered a blow.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported safety Kenny Vaccaro is headed to injured reserve, according to a source informed of the decision. Vaccaro has been playing with an adductor muscle (groin) completely torn off the bone and an injured wrist. He'll undergo surgery on both, per Rapoport.
The 26-year-old safety started 12 games this season, compiling 60 tackles, seven passes defended, three interceptions and 1.5 sacks. Vaccaro missed two games earlier in the season due to the groin injury.
The Saints are deep at safety with Vonn Bell and rookie Marcus Williams. Chris Banjo and Rafael Bush are also options to rotate at the position. Corner P.J. Williams could be in line for more snaps against three-receiver sets, where Vaccaro often dropped to cover the slot.
Heading into free agency, Vaccaro had an up-and-down season while battling through injury. His versatility allowed the Saints flexibility, and for stretches he made plays -- especially against the run -- earning a career-high three interceptions. At other times, the safety played poorly against the pass this season and was benched in a Week 2 loss versus the Patriots. His play dropped off noticeably after the groin injury struck in early November. Pro Football Focus graded Vaccaro their 117th rated safety this season, lowest among qualifying players.
Even though Vaccaro struggled while battling through injury, his absence will harm the Saints' best defense in memory. Since Week 3, New Orleans has allowed 18.1 points per game, 297.8 total yards per game, and an opposing passer rating of 69.4.