Following the Bengals' Round 3 draft selection of Utah State linebacker Nick Vigil, Bengals coaches shared some of their thoughts on the addition of the multi-talented linebacker and why they decided to use their third round draft pick on him.
After A.J. Hawk was released early this week, the assumption was the Bengals would draft a linebacker who had the ability to play on special teams in addition to on defense. Bengals linebackers coach Jim Haslett and defensive coordinator Paul Guenther both made it known that Vigil will be expected to learn and develop on special teams. When Haslett was asked if Vigil is the kind of guy you start on special teams and watch progress, he said that's something the coaches will discuss.
"We've kind of discussed it, but obviously he'll have a big role on special teams. He's got great speed," Haslett said. "We'll try to fit him in and we've got some pretty good linebackers, but when you watch the tape, he jumps out on the tape. He can run the field. He's really good in coverage and they play the same type of defense we play, so I think it'll be an easy transition once he learns the language, and I think he's a three down player that can play multiple positions. He can play the Mike, the SAM or the WILL positions because of his versatility."
Haslett also brought up that during Vigil's sophomore year in 2014, he had 7.5 sacks and 118 tackles. Though, according to sports-reference.com, he actually had 9 sacks and 138 tackles. In 2015, he had 144 tackles and 3.0 sacks. "The guy's got some rush ability," Haslett said. "He's got some speed, some cover ability, so he's just a good football player."
Guenther also made an interesting comment on Vigil, saying, "At this point in the draft, we're trying to challenge the back end of our roster, whether it be the sixth linebacker or fourth or fifth corner, and that's how those guys come in."
Many teams are drafting immediate impact players in Round 3. Think back to the Bengals last year, they drafted Tyler Kroft in Round 3 of the 2015 NFL Draft, and at first, many disapproved of the pick. But, Kroft ended up being a highly valuable player in 2015 for the Bengals when Tyler Eifert was injured with a stinger and concussion late in the season. He started the year by playing mostly on special teams, but he ended up starting in six games and playing in every game.
"They develop on special teams," Guenther said. "One of the things we've done is, last year we really tried to get those guys in early in preseason games against the better players, so we could get a really good gauge of what we had. That's initially going to be these guys' roles coming in here, coming in the back of the thing and work their way up the rest of that."
Guenther believes Vigil is a fit for the Bengals and someone who has shown on tape that he was worthy of being drafted by the team. "He's going to come in and pick it up fairly quickly," Guenther said.
Marvin Lewis knows there will be work needed to tune up Vigil's game, which should come as no surprise.
"He's got some stuff that we'll have to clean up with him to play productively at this level, but yeah, he's a guy that has a great feel (for the game) that's played in there, understands it — it's not like a guy you're making transition; he sees the angles and blocks and how things attack him and so forth and has good, disciplined vision that way, which is another thing you like about him."
When asked if he felt the Bengals could have waited until Day 3 to select Vigil, Lewis made it clear the team drafted Vigil at a point where they felt the value was there.
"We weren't willing to take that risk," he said. "This is a guy that, grade-wise, we felt very strong about collectively."