Over the past few months, we’ve been breaking down the Jets’ undrafted rookies. However, we’ve also been looking at some of the veteran additions they’ve made since training camp opened, continuing today with former Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil.
The 29-year old Vigil was a third round pick out of Utah State in 2016 and he has started at least 10 games four times since being drafted. He had 111 tackles in 2019 and has five sacks and three interceptions in his career so far.
Vigil was a three-star recruit out of high school where he played both as a linebacker and running back. He headed to Utah State where he redshirted his first season back in 2012.
In 2013, he played in all 14 games and recorded 57 tackles and 5.5 sacks despite only starting four times.
In 2014 and 2015 he moved into a full-time starter role, as he started 27 straight games and was a two-time all-Mountain West Conference first-teamer. He had 123 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks to go along with five forced fumbles in 2014 and then was sixth in the nation with 144 tackles in 2015.
As he opted to enter the 2016 draft, most draft analysts projected Vigil as a mid-to-late round pick after he had a solid combine performance, but he was surprisingly selected by the Bengals in the third round.
As a rookie, he came off the bench and had 21 tackles and a pass defensed. He then became a full time starter over the next three years. He started 11 games in 2017 and had 79 tackles and five pass breakups. Then in 2018, he started 10 times and had 84 tackles and five tackles for loss. 2019 saw him rack up a career-high 111 tackles and tie a career high with five pass breakups.
Over the next three years, he played on three different teams. He started just two games for the Chargers in 2020 but had 50 tackles in a rotational role, then in 2021 he started 12 games with the Vikings and had 85 tackles and a pick-six. In 2022, he started two of the first four games with Arizona but then suffered a season-ending injury.
He signed with the New York Jets last week after two linebackers were waived/injured following the Hall of Fame game.
Now let’s take a look at what Vigil brings to the table, divided into categories.
Vigil has average size and length, although draft experts felt he needed to be stronger. He was unable to perform the bench press at his combine workout and then posted just 15 reps at his pro day.
The rest of his combine workout was a success as he posted the 10th best 40-yard dash time at his position (4.72) and also added superb agility numbers. His explosiveness numbers were poor though. He improved the 40-time to 4.65 at his pro day.
Vigil has played as a conventional off-the-ball linebacker throughout his career, only creeping up to the edge or matching up in the slot from time to time. He’s played both as an inside and outside linebacker in 4-3 schemes, though.
In high school, he was also a running back, and this was also the case for five games in college where he averaged 3.6 yards per carry on 47 carries and rushed for four scores. He also threw two passes that were both completed for short gains.
Although he’s been a productive defender against the run, Vigil will often find himself being taken out of plays by blockers and typically has graded out poorly in terms of his run defense.
He’s at his best when he can be kept clean to react to and close on the ball carrier to make stops.
Vigil is a versatile defender in coverage, who can drop into a zone or pick up man to man assignments. He is even capable of taking deep drops when required.
Despite this, he can be overmatched against certain players and usually gives up a high catch percentage even though he’s only given up one 40-yard play and four touchdowns in his career.
He does have some ball skills, displaying some good timing and an ability to compete at the catchpoint over the course of his career which has seen him break up 17 passes.
He had a pick-six in 2021 where he showed a good ability to react in zone coverage along with a clean pair of hands.
He has had three penalties in coverage at the NFL level - one for pass interference and two for holding.
Although Vigil has statistically been an extremely productive tackler, he’s someone who has a reputation for making “cheap” tackles down the field and for rallying to the ball to get credit for assisting on a tackle where someone else actually instigated the stop.
He definitely misses too many tackles, including in 2019 where he had almost 20, so his tackle efficiency was poor even though he racked up well over 100 tackles.
Despite having good timed speed, Vigil’s range in pursuit is not as good as you’d like to see and he can be prone to taking over-aggressive angles or over-pursuing in space.
He has had one personal foul for a horse collar tackle during his career so far.
Vigil has been an effective blitzer over the course of his career with 15.5 sacks in three years at Utah State. Although he only has two sacks at the NFL level (and another one in preseason), his pressure rate has been solid.
He has had one roughing the passer penalty at the NFL level.
Vigil has experience of playing on all special teams units during his NFL career so far. He’s been productive in kick coverage with 20 career special teams tackles, including nine a few seasons ago. However, he also misses a lot of tackles and gets blocked out of some returns.
It was felt Vigil needed to work on his physicality on entering the league, but he seems to have done this. However, he can still get taken out by blockers too easily at times causing him to get sealed off or give up ground.
He shows on this play an ability to level a quarterback with a good clean hit without risking a penalty flag.
He’s not particularly physical in coverage, but also hasn’t had any penalties over the past three seasons.
Vigil is regarded as a player with good instincts and he has often worn the defensive headset, even early on in his career. He shows an ability to anticipate and blow up a play here.
In general though, he tends to be more reactive both against the run and in coverage and can hesitate within that role.
He’s been involved in blown coverages at times, often when not dropping deep enough when a receiver runs a deep crosser. He can also be known to bite on play action.
Vigil is a player with plenty of experience, leadership traits, a good work ethic and toughness.
As noted, his on-field discipline has been good with no defensive penalties since he left the Bengals in 2019.
Vigil has avoided serious injury so far in his career but he’s been on injured reserve a few times. In 2017, he injured his ankle in week 12 and missed the rest of the season and last year he only played four games before suffering a hamstring injury that ended his season.
He also missed multiple games with a knee injury in 2018 and was dealing with a pectoral injury during the pre-draft process in 2016.
Vigil was clearly brought in along with Samuel Eguavoen because the Jets need experienced bodies to contribute for them during preseason. With Hamsah Nasirildeen and Maalik Hall both injured and ultimately waived during the week after the first game and Chazz Surratt also nursing a hamstring injury, that will enable Jamien Sherwood to get additional reps without him having to play alongside undrafted rookies.
In Cincinnati, Vigil at one point was competing with current Jet Carl Lawson for the strongside linebacker role. The fact Vigil won that and Lawson ended up as a situational rusher says more about Lawson’s poor fit in such a role than it does about Vigil’s talent level.
In addition to Lawson, Vigil was also a teammate of CJ Uzomah and Alex Erickson in Cincinnati, Javelin Guidry in Arizona and Surratt and Tyler Conklin in Minnestota.
Vigil has really been brought in as a camp body and it’s unlikely he’ll make the team. However, as an experienced player, if he can show a good grasp of the system it will give him a good chance to remain in the team’s plans to potentially be someone they call upon later in the year if injuries arise.
His best hope is probably a practice squad spot unless there’s a series of injuries between now and the opener. He’s the sort of player who will get reps for some linebacker-needy team this year. Ideally, that won’t turn out to be the Jets.