March 16 was a roller coaster for Bengals fans.
Only an hour after the signing of linebacker Preston Brown, news broke that Vontaze Burfict will serve yet another suspension. Now, the Bengals will be without the help of the former Pro Bowler for the fourth season opener in a row.
2017 was not a good season for Bengals linebackers. Burfict spent the first three weeks serving a suspension before he ended the season on injured reserve after playing in only 10 games.
Fellow starters Nick Vigil and Kevin Minter both missed significant playing time due to injury. While rookies Jordan Evans and Brandon Bell were decent stand-ins, the Bengals banged-up defense definitely felt the weight of missing playmakers.
Wisconsin’s Jack Cichy might be able to beef up the Bengals linebacker corps. Despite missing games due to injury himself, he was one of the best players on great Wisconsin defenses. Finishing in the top 10 each of the last four years (twice at No. 2), Wisconsin’s defense relied on their signal caller to help get to three Big Ten Championships during his tenure.
There is no question that Cichy is a competitor. He was a walk-on at Wisconsin and fought his way to the top of the depth chart. After finally making it onto the field, he had solid numbers in 2015 (60 total tackles, eight for a loss, five sacks) even though he only started four games. He appeared to break out in 2016, but he only played in seven games before a knee injury ended his season.
His durability will be the biggest question for him heading into the draft? Can he summon the toughness to make it in the NFL? Should the Bengals even consider him?
Weight: 238 pounds
Bench Press: 18 reps
Projected Round: 5-6
Total tackles: 121 career; 60 in 2016
Tackles for a loss: 15.0 career; 7.0 in 2016
Sacks: 6.5 career; 1.5 in 2016
Fumbles forced/recovered: two career; two in 2016
In order to have a proper understanding of Cichy’s game, one must first realize that the amount of film and combine stats are extremely limited. Cichy missed all of the 2017 season with a knee injury, half of the 2016 season with a pectoral injury, and most of his first two years due to the Badger’s linebacker depth.
So after five years of eligibility, Cichy only has 22 games to show for it. He was also limited in the combine, so there is little source material out there. This alone will hurt his draft stock.
Out of the gate, Cichy is drawing Vigil comparisons. They are roughly the same size, are very smart and tough players, and have incredible instincts. Both are prototypical inside linebackers with specific skill sets.
Cichy is an excellent run-stopping linebacker. He has great instincts and can find the ball on pretty much every play. Once he makes contact, he doesn’t lose yards. He has a knack for making his way into the backfield on passing plays and if he can’t make the sack, he will at least disrupt the quarterback’s rhythm.
Like Vigil, however, Cichy lacks the athleticism and explosiveness that are so crucial in the NFL today. His sideline-to-sideline speed is severely lacking and he constantly takes bad angles on outside plays.
There is very little footage of Cichy in pass coverage because it is such a weakness for him. On blitzes, he doesn’t have very many moves to beat blockers which might end up being a problem for him in the NFL.
Overall, Cichy is still fairly raw given his lack of playing time. He has shown flashes of talent and some skills that can’t be taught, but his injury history raises some red flags. In addition, his lacking athletic abilities present problems for him as well.
Cichy will have to make his living as a backup and special teams player. His size and toughness could help him succeed on special teams, which will be his saving grace. Cichy will be relegated to the later rounds of the draft where the Bengals could consider picking him up.
His value to the Bengals will strictly be as a special teams player, though. If the Bengals want to take a chance on a young linebacker, they might as well do it with one that is already on the team.