It’s no secret — the New Orleans Saints struggled tremendously at stopping the run a season ago. Much of that falls on the nose tackle position, an area of weakness and inconsistency between Brodrick Bunkley and John Jenkins. There is much to be improved, and second-year man Lawrence Virgil looks to play a role in the turnaround. Today, we take a peek at Virgil as part of our ‘Sophomore Spotlight’ series.
Like fellow 2014 undrafted free agent wide receiver Seantavius Jones, Lawrence Virgil is a product of the small Gulf South school known as Valdosta State, a college where the defensive tackle was quite productive once making the transition from tight end. He made the switch to the defensive line in 2011 and had an outstanding year as a sophomore, totaling 30 tackles (8.5 for a loss) and a team-high five sacks.
As a junior in 2012, he started all 14 games, including the postseason. Virgil recorded 52 total tackles (12 for a loss), six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a pass breakup and a safety in the playoffs. He earned Honorable Mention All-America, first-team All-Super Region 2 and second-team All-Gulf South.
During his senior year in 2013, Virgil finished with 48 tackles (8.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He was a force to be reckoned with in the Gulf South Conference.
After going untouched during the selection process a year ago, Sean Payton and company took a swing, signing on Lawrence Virgil as an undrafted rookie. He spent a majority of the season on the practice squad until he was activated following a week 12 injury that landed Brodrick Bunkley on injured reserve.
Virgil would act as backup to John Jenkins and Brandon Deaderick, but not seeing time until the final game of the season versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With an excellent frame (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) and athleticism that could be utilized between defensive end and tackle, Virgil looks to size his way into an extended role in 2015, but that’s only if he passes the first test — impressing at training camp and making the final cut.
He’ll face a heap of competition from Bunkley, Jenkins, a handfull of rookies including fifth-round pick Tyeler Davison, and of course, recent free agent acquisition and six-time Pro Bowl tackle Kevin Williams.
The test will not be easy, but there is a chance Lawrence Virgil slides by Bunkley, who is resting uncomfortably on the roster bubble after three disappointing years in New Orleans. However, I’m beginning to drift away from the idea that Virgil has a real shot. There’s just too much depth. Only time will tell if the kid can keep himself from being one of the odd men out. He’ll get his shot when training camp kicks off at the end of July.
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