The Miami Dolphins went through an overhaul of their linebacker corps this offseason. High priced/low production players Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler have been replaced by a slew of undrafted rookie free agents (UFAs) competing for a roster spot. With starting middle linebacker Koa Misi nursing a calf injury, rookie Zach Vigil is taking advantage of his opportunity; standing out in a crowded linebacker corps.
Vigil experienced success in college at Utah State earning the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference. He logged 156 tackles, nine sacks, and an interception in 2014. But Vigil recognizes that in the NFL nothing is handed to you.
“For me, my mindset, whether I was drafted or not, it was you have to come in and earn your spot whether you’re drafted or not.” Vigil said after a practice, “Because at this level even if you’re drafted, if you’re not doing the job they’ll bring somebody else in that can get it done.”
It’s still early, but after one preseason game Vigil is getting it done. He finished the night with five tackles and a sack. Head coach Joe Philbin had this to say about Vigil’s performance thus far,
“Yeah, production. He’s involved in tackles. If you’re a linebacker, one of your job responsibilities is to get in on tackles and have production, and I think for the number of snaps he was in the ball game, he got in on plays. He has good instincts and I thought he showed pretty well.”
Playing middle linebacker in the NFL is no easy task. The middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and the coaches have to feel confident in who they put out there.
“There’s a little more on your plate [as the middle linebacker] and you have to know what you’re doing. The coaches don’t want to put you out there if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Vigil explains, “There’s quite a bit to it [the defense] so being a young guy I have to be into my stuff. And when I’m done here I got to go watch film and get into my playbook.”
The young linebacker understands that preparation is key to having success in the NFL. It remains to be seen if Vigil and build off of his performance. So far coach Philbin likes what he sees.
“Yeah, I do. Again, I think he has good instincts as a football player, he’s been able to be out here every day, he competes hard. So I thought it was a good first outing.”
This story was written by Carlos A. Hernandez. Follow him on Twitter: @LosDez
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