OLB Luiji Vilain Is Proving His Worth


Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Luiji Vilian (43) performs a drill during mandatory mini camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings had their rookies report to training camp on Sunday, July 23rd. Minnesota’s veterans also reported that Tuesday, so training camp is in full swing in Eagan. They played their first preseason game on Thursday night in Seattle.

As the practice sessions continue, we are continuing to take a look at the depth pieces of this Vikings team, and where they may fit into the 2023 roster through our “Road to 53” series. The next player on our list is OLB Luiji Vilain, who showed out in the Vikings first preseason game.

Background

Michigan’s Jon Runyan blocks Luiji Vilain during the spring game Saturday, April 13, 2019 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

Jon Runyan, Luiji Vilain

Luiji Vilain attended high school at Episcopal High in Alexandria, Virginia, and he was one of the highest ranked recruits when he played there. 24/7 Sports listed him as a four-star recruit and the 57th-best high school player in the Class of 2017.

Following his high school days, Vilain began his collegiate career at Michigan after receiving offers from many high-profile programs such as Alabama, Florida, and Ohio State.

Vilain didn’t see any action on defense during his first two seasons of 2017 and 2018, with the Wolverines having plenty of talent at EDGE in Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Uche, and Chase Winovich. He finally saw his first action during the 2019 season, playing 47 snaps. In all, he recorded 7 tackles, including a sack over four games.

In the Covid-shortened 2020 season, Vilain again saw very limited playing time at Michigan. He appeared in five games, appearing in 108 defensive snaps and putting together four tackles.

Finally, in 2021, Vilain decided it was time for he and the Wolverines to part ways. He made the decision to enter the transfer portal and committed to Wake Forest for the fall. In his final opportunity to show NFL teams what he was made of, the EDGE burst onto the scene for the Demon Deacons during that 2021 season. He put together 34 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and a pair of forced fumbles during his final collegiate season.

While Vilain wasn’t selected during the 2022 NFL Draft, he did get signed to one of the more lucrative UDFA contracts by the Minnesota Vikings, landing a three-year deal worth $2.58 million. During his rookie season, he played in three games for the Vikings, recording four tackles. Now, he is hoping to take on a bigger role with the team heading into 2023.

How Vilain Can Impact the 2023 Vikings

OLB Luiji Vilain
Oct 9, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader (16) runs with the ball past Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Luiji Vilain (2) during the second half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

We got to see Vilain’s pass-rushing talents on full display Thursday night against the Seahawks. Vilain was credited with four pressures (via Pro Football Focus), and he was credited with a strip-sack.

This is going to be Vilain’s ticket for making the Vikings roster this season. With the departure of Za’Darius Smith this spring, Minnesota needs more pass-rushing talent behind Marcus Davenport and Danielle Hunter.

Obstacles in His Way

Nov 7, 2020; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) narrowly escapes being sacked by Michigan Wolverines defensive lineman Luiji Vilain (18) during the second half of the game at Memorial Stadium. The Indiana Hoosiers defeated the Michigan Wolverines 38 to 21. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The issue with Vilain at this point is the fact that he is a bit of a “one-trick pony” at that outside linebacker spot. He doesn’t offer a ton in terms of run support, and he can be a bit of a shaky tackler at times. He is plenty capable of getting after QBs, but will he be able to step up in other areas of the field?

Luckily, the Vikings have other players (Jordan Hicks, Byron Murphy) who are capable of making an impact against the run, so this shouldn’t provide too much concern right now as a rotational player.

The Prediction

Nov 27, 2021; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons defensive lineman Luiji Vilain (2) chases Boston College Eagles quarterback Phil Jurkovec (5) out of the pocket during the first half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Vilain won’t be a player who comes in on early downs at this point in his career, but he should be able to make this year’s roster in Minnesota. He will be a third-down, pass-rushing specialist that can help Minnesota up their sack total from 2022.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.





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