Fifty-three roster spots sounds like a lot, until it’s not.
It’s a lot if you’re a lock to make the team, not if you’re borderline. Perhaps somewhere between the two is where New Orleans Saints linebacker Vince Biegel resides, entering the preseason finale against Miami on Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But as Biegel adds to his repertoire, he adds to his odds of remaining with the Saints through Saturday’s cutdown, when New Orleans must pare its active roster to 53 players, from 90.
Known last season for his play on special teams, Biegel in preseason has been asked and allowed to give more to the defense, and has responded with a team-high three quarterback hits, one of the Saints’ three sacks, a fumble recovery, a tackle for loss and six tackles.
“I feel a ton more comfortable from last year to this year,” said Biegel, who’s entering his third season. “Obviously, when I came in, it was just special teams and this year, it’s really blossomed into Sam linebacker, edge rusher, being able to fill all these different roles has really been awesome for me, to kind of put my energy and my focus on being able to help this team win ballgames.”
He helped close out the 28-13 preseason victory over the Jets with a sack on New York’s final drive, and he was applying pressure when the defense forced a holding penalty in the end zone, which resulted in a safety.
Biegel, who started his career in Green Bay and played nine games for the Packers in 2017, said he’s happy with the opportunity to show what he can do.
“I’ve been in a 3-4 scheme my whole life, and this is the first time I’ve been in a 4-3,” he said. “Sam is kind of a tweener – inside linebacker, outside linebacker – and then the defensive ends, I’ve played defensive end in college and Green Bay. So it’s something I feel very comfortable doing, getting after the passer and rushing.
“Whatever role they want me to do, I’m going to embrace and go out there and do it to the best of my ability. I really feel like I’ve grown leaps and bounds here; understanding the playbook, growing and understanding my technique and I’m really excited for this season to come.”
But the former Wisconsin standout really gets a rush from the pass rush.
“Always looking forward to rush,” he said. “I always like going forward versus going backward. They’ve definitely given me a lot of opportunities to rush, to develop myself as a rusher. I feel very thankful. I’m excited, hopefully get some rushing opportunities come season time.”
He could receive increased chances Thursday night. His snap count likely will increase, given the fact that starters Demario Davis and A.J. Klein are unlikely to play, and Alex Anzalone and Craig Robertson haven’t practiced this week.
That said, Biegel thus far has made his NFL home on special teams. And it’s where he knows, for certain, that he can be productive. He had four special teams tackles in 14 games last year.
“I think I’ve made a lot of plays (on special teams),” Biegel said. “Through three preseason games, I think I’ve had the most special teams reps on the team.
“For me, I really do love playing (special) teams. Teams is where I feel real passion at, and we’ve got some of the best coaches in the league here on our team. Even with T-Mo (punter Thomas Morstead) and some of our veteran guys, it’s a great group of guys. We elevate and we push one another to be better. Punt, punt return, kickoff, kickoff return – I’m going to go out there and provide value for this team.”