Secret Superstar: Junior Galette
It always makes for a good story when an undrafted rookie ends up making an NFL roster. It becomes more exciting when that player starts getting play time. That is taken to yet another level when that player can become a Secret Superstar.
That is the case with pass rusher Junior Galette of the New Orleans Saints who joined the team after their Super Bowl victory. For the last several years, the main pass rush from the Saints defense had come from Will Smith. With enough snaps, Galette can easily get the most pressure in the new 3-4 defense in New Orleans.
Like most players in the Secret Superstar series, we’ll let you know where they came from, how they rose to stardom and what we can expect from this up and coming player in the future.
Rise to Playing Time
Junior Galette started off his college career as a linebacker at Temple. He later switched positions to defensive end, and after a suspension opted to transfer to Division II Stillman College. This is the same university that Sammie Lee Hill came from. While Hill was able to become a fourth round pick in the 2009 draft, Galette went undrafted to the Saints.
He was impressive during training camp and the preseason which landed Galette on the 53 man roster. He was behind Will Smith, Alex Brown, Jimmy Wilkerson and Jeff Charleston on the depth chart, so playing time was naturally hard to come by. Galette saw 25 snaps over three games with over half of that coming in the last week of the regular season. He had one stop and no quarterback pressure in that time.
For the 2011 season, the Saints had let go of Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson, but drafted Cameron Jordan in the first round of the draft. This bumped Galette up to the third defensive end on the depth chart. By Week 6, he was seeing between 20 and 40 snaps per game. Over the season he had a Pass Rushing Productivity of 8.4, which was substantially better than Smith’s 6.4 and Jordan’s 5.4, although Galette had the fewest pass rushes of the three players. Possibly his best game that season came in the Wild Card victory against the Lions, where he managed three hits on Matthew Stafford.
More Playing Time = More Pass Rush
The Saints added Turk McBride in free agency and had 2011 third round pick Martez Wilson play more defensive end in 2012, but Galette still kept the third defensive end spot. Typically Galette would come in for third down snaps at DLE while Cameron Jordan would move in to defensive tackle. While he kept the same role he had in 2011 as a situational pass rusher, he ended up fulfilling his role better.
One of his best early season games came in Week 3 against the Chiefs. The Saints were up 10-6 in the second quarter, while the Chiefs were driving to try getting closer or taking the lead before halftime. Galette almost effectively ended the drive with a second down sack. The Chiefs managed another first down on the drive, so Galette had his second sack in less than 40 seconds of playing time, and also forced a fumble which kept the Saints leading into halftime.
He followed that up with strong showings in Week 5 against the Chargers and Week 7 against the Buccaneers as well, with sacks in each of those games and seven additional hurries. Unfortunately, a Week 9 ankle injury kept Galette out of four games in the middle of the season as well as limited playing time in Week 9 as well as in Week 14 when he returned from injury.
His Week 15 game against the Buccaneers was his best game as a professional. He was able to record four hits and four hurries although he didn’t end up with a sack. He ended well in his last two games with five combined pressures on 31 pass rushes.
His number of pass rushes was limited due to being a part time player as well as his injury, but on his limited snaps he was one of the most effective pass rushing defensive ends in 2012. His Pass Rushing Productivity of 11.6 was fourth best for all 4-3 defensive ends behind only Brandon Graham, Cameron Wake and Charles Johnson.
Very Bright Future
The Saints have brought in Rob Ryan to run the defense in 2013, which means a shift from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4. Cameron Jordan is staying at defensive end while Galette is moving to outside linebacker, so Galette no longer has Jordan to compete with for playing time. He now will compete with Will Smith, Martez Wilson and free agent addition Victor Butler for the two outside linebacker spots. Last year Smith was one of the least effective outside pass rushers in the game and Galette held off Wilson for playing time last year, so Galette should win a job over both Smith and Wilson.
This should very well mean that Galette should move from a part time player to an every down player, and take the role that DeMarcus Ware once had when Ryan was with the Cowboys. While he doesn’t have much experience in run downs, Galette has only missed one tackle in his three years. He has improved each year he has been with the Saints so far, and they have trusted him enough to give him a three-year contract this offseason. Now the sky is the limit if Galette can successfully transition to the new defense in New Orleans.
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