Dolphins rookie linebacker Zach Vigil earning steady playing time

DAVIE, Fla. -- Miami Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Vigil made an unintentional joke that sparked laughter from the media Monday. The undrafted rookie was asked in the locker room if he ever met the other famous “Zach” in South Florida.

Zack Bowman?” Vigil said, sparking laughter.

The media was not asking Vigil about his teammate and cornerback. Vigil was asked about Zach Thomas, who also was an undrafted linebacker and played 12 years in Miami. Vigil said he only knew of Thomas from his speech to the team during training camp. But the two don't know each other personally.

Although it is waaaaay too early to make any comparisons, Vigil is similar to Thomas in the way he made the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie and is getting early playing time.

Vigil didn’t start Sunday but split reps with starting middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard in Miami's 17-10 win over the Washington Redskins. Vigil had one tackle but coaches were happy with his progress.

“Sometimes you may not think he may look the part, but yet he finds the ball,” Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. “He’s smart. He reads things well. He communicates well. He does all the things you want out of a Mike [middle] linebacker. ... I think he’s got a real good future.”

The Dolphins scouted Vigil at Utah State. He had very high production and led the nation with 138 tackles in addition to six sacks. That helped convince the linebacker-thin Dolphins, who were 24th against the run in 2014, to bring Vigil in this offseason.

According to Coyle, Vigil immediately impressed this offseason with his smarts and work ethic. He began working his way up the depth chart in the spring and reached the point where he received meaningful playing time on defense in the Dolphins’ first regular-season game.

But Vigil, like the rest of Miami’s defense, made some mistakes. The Dolphins allowed 161 rushing yards to Washington, which is a concern.

“I can’t let it bother me anymore,” Vigil said. “I still got to take those strides and keep preparing and keep mastering the defense. So when I’m in the game I can be confident, loud and make plays.”

Vigil and the rest of Miami’s linebackers have some work to do. This group must get better getting off blocks and making sure tackles.