Cincinnati LB Vincent Rey: The Sponge

In the wake of Vontaze Burfict's injury, where would the Bengals be without Vincent Rey at linebacker?

Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey may be getting a new nickname -- The Sponge.

The sixth-year backer and last season's leading tackler, came up with the interception that sealed the Bengals' home-opening win Sunday against the Chargers after making several key stops earlier in the game. He has 13 tackles on the season, among the team leaders. He had nine tackles against Oakland, ranking second on the team.

"Vinny’s been a sponge," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. "He’s continued to work mentally and physically on everything."

Rey, who worked his way into the regular rotation after signing with the Bengals in 2010 as a college free agent, led the team in tackles last year with 121. That was more than he had his entire first four seasons combined (88).

With sponge-like qualities while soaking up opposing runners, he led last year by a margin of 31 tackles while coming on strong at the end. He led the team or tied for the team lead in tackles in each of the last seven games of 2014.

He played in every game and started 13 last season, moving into the No. 1 linebacker role on the depth chart when Pro-Bowler Vontaze Burfict was unable to come back from injuries. Rey had the Bengals' three highest single-game tackle totals last season.

"When he gets opportunities, he makes good on them," Lewis said.

Rey has risen to the moment in incredibly stellar fashion on occasion, flashing the skills that made him a legendary tackling machine while at brain-training Duke. Rey is the only player in Bengals history to log three sacks and one interception in a game, doing so in 2013 in a game at Baltimore.

Not only that, he's durable. Rey has played in every Bengals game since the start of the 2011 season, all the while cleaning up messes and soaking up opposing breakaway threats, not to mention more football knowledge.

"He’s just been a sponge of every coaching point and everything you give him," Lewis said of Rey. "He understands it, and it has enabled him to progress as a football player.”

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