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Nick Vigil needs to provide more than continuity at linebacker

It’s time for Nick Vigil to make noise of his own.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Year 3 is always the penultimate year of judgement for NFL players.

By the conclusion of their third season, you typically have a solid grasp on what players succeed and underwhelm at, and you can project their career arcs accordingly. It’s also when you can begin to accurately depict the quality of an entire team’s draft class.

It was at the end of this past season when we realized that the Bengals draft classes of 2014 and 2015 were largely unsuccessful, and in a few months, we could be saying the exact opposite about the draft class of 2016.

The buzz from this offseason in Cincinnati has surrounded three of the first four players drafted from that year. Cornerback William Jackson is primed to becoming a household name, and slot receiver Tyler Boyd and nose tackle Andrew Billings are looking the two most improved players on the roster.

Then there’s the guy who was drafted between Boyd and Billings; linebacker Nick Vigil.

Despite starting more games than both Boyd and Billings in their first two seasons, Vigil has been just as up and down as them. And we haven’t heard much regarding his progression as a player like we’ve heard from Boyd and Billings.

Vigil’s third year has to be the one where he starts making his own noise on the field.

Nick Vigil

Age: 24 (Born 8/20/93)

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 240 lbs

College: Utah State

Hometown: Plain City, Utah

Experience: Third year

Cap Status

Now in the third year of his rookie contract, Vigil is set to make $630,000 from his base salary and will count $828,907 against the cap with his prorated signing bonus and workout bonus included. Vigil is eligible for a contract extension next offseason and isn’t set to be an unrestricted free agent until the conclusion of the 2019 league year.

Background

Widely regarded as an early Day 3 prospect, the Bengals took a chance on the athletic Vigil in the middle of the third-round in the 2016 NFL Draft. Behind veterans such as Vincent Rey and Karlos Dansby, Vigil never officially started a game in his rookie season, but he played in every one and took 65 of his 110 snaps on defense in the final three weeks. He was also one of three players with over 300 snaps on special teams.

2017 was Vigil’s chance to get his feet wet as a starting outside linebacker in base and nickel packages, and his struggles taking on blocks and picking up routes in zone coverage were on display on a weekly basis.

Similar to fellow linebacker Jordan Evans, when Vigil was able to scrape over the top of the line of scrimmage as a pursuit tackler, his level of play was much more stable. When he was asked to attack interior gaps downhill and take on second level blockers, he was compromised more times than not.

Vigil is a fast and flexible defender, but he needs to play with and deliver more power when he takes on contact.

Vigil played and started in 11 games, but an ankle injury he suffered against the Cleveland Browns in Week 12 sidelined him for the remainder of the season. His absence, however, allowed Evans, a rookie at the time, to get much needed exposure on defense.

2018 Outlook

The Bengals linebacker room has received an influx of raw talent in recent years, and is once again experiencing notable turnover. Vontaze Burfict is once again suspended for the start of the season, and Evans is starting in his place as opposed to Rey, who started for Burfict last year when he was out. Preston Brown is replacing Kevin Minter at middle linebacker, and is the third starter at that spot the Bengals have had in three years.

Vigil is set to start at strongside linebacker for the second year in a row, and represents the sole piece of continuity at the position to begin the season. But the Bengals need a different Vigil than they’ve seen in years past. The linebackers surrounding Burfict have almost always been a liability for the Bengals defense, and Vigil’s hopefully progression can help the position go from a weakness to a strength.

Roster Odds: 99.9%