For each of the 17 weeks of NFL regular season action, I will be previewing both an offensive and defensive rookie who will play a prominent role in his teams weekly match-up. In week four we placed the focus on Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon’s first start against the Arizona Cardinals, and the 6th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, Cleveland Browns linebacker Barkevious Mingo making his first start against the Cincinnati Bengals. Glennon was very shaky in his first start and his two interceptions doomed the Buccaneers to a 4th consecutive loss. Mingo was disruptive against the Bengals, recording his 3rd sack in as many games and helping the Browns defense hold Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense to 6 points. In week 5 Chance Warmack and the Tennessee Titans welcome the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs, while Kenny Vaccaro and the 4-0 New Orleans Saints head into the windy city and take on the 3-1 Chicago Bears.
Chance Warmack – Offensive Guard, Tennessee Titans
After losing emerging franchise quarterback Jake Locker to injury a week ago, the Tennessee Titans are going to have to reshape their offense. Their will be renewed emphasis on a power running game and a short and controlled passing attack. Ryan Fitzpatrick steps into the starting line-up but offers a vastly different style of play than the athletic Locker. With a lack of playmaking ability at quarterback, the Titans are going to have to get exceptional play from their offensive line in order to establish a dominant rushing attack. Chance Warmack is an old fashioned road grader at right guard, and has a style of play that will fit in perfectly with what Tennessee will look to do offensively in Locker’s absence. Warmack will be under fire against the Kansas City Chiefs and their aggressive pass rush on Sunday. On any given play he will be matched up with 2012 first rounder Dontari Poe, the physical Tyson Jackson, or pro bowl inside linebacker Derrick Johnson. The Chiefs also have one of the NFL’s most dangerous pass rush duos at outside linebacker in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, so a clean pocket for Ryan Fitzpatrick will be crucial. Where the dynamic Chiefs defense is most vulnerable is on the ground, and that is where the Titans will need Chance Warmack the most. The Titans will have a chance to win the game if they can establish the run and keep the score close, but if they are playing from behind and become one dimensional then the Chiefs could become a nightmare opponent.
Kenny Vaccaro – Defensive Back, New Orleans Saints
The undefeated New Orleans Saints will get their toughest test of the young season on Sunday when they travel to Chicago to take on a 3-1 Bears team that has quickly taken to the guidance of first year head coach Mark Trestman. Jay Cutler leads a talented Chicago offense against New Orleans defense which has been reborn under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his aggressive 3-4 scheme. One of the key components to Ryan’s defense is the versatility of defensive back Kenny Vaccaro, the #15 overall selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Saints move Vaccaro all over the field as a safety, slot corner, and even as a nickel linebacker. Chicago has some unique talents of their own on offense, two of which will take up the majority of focus from the rookie. Versatile running back Matt Forte is a threat as a runner and as a receiver, and simply must be accounted for on a play by play basis. Not to be ignored is tight end Martellus Bennett, who stands at an athletic 6’7 is one of the most difficult players in the NFL to cover. In different play calls Vaccaro will be matched up against different players, but his primary focus will be on the talented running back and tight end. Vaccaro’s play in the red zone will play a huge factor in the outcome of this game, as Bennett has emerged as one of the league’s more dangerous red zone receiving threats. Games like these are why the Saints valued Vaccaro as highly as they did, and Rob Ryan knows that playmaking versatility is not exclusive to the offensive side of the ball.