Junior Galette’s Role in Redskins’ Defense

Junior Galette was cut by the New Orleans Saints on July 24th only one season after signing a four year, $41.5 million extension last September. After a week in free agency, Galette signed with the Washington Redskins to play opposite Ryan Kerrigan in Joe Barry’s new 3-4 Under defense. This breakdown will look at how Galette fits in the scheme after signing a one-year, veteran minimum contract worth only $745,000.

As we discussed in one of my previous articles on the scheme’s individual responsibilities you will notice that there are two distinct roles the outside linebackers play. The first is the weakside outside linebacker or “Will”, whose main job is to generate pressure and rush the quarterback. While the second role is the strongside outside linebacker or “Sam” whose main responsibility is to play contain first and rush the passer second. So which role does Galette fill? To answer this question, we need to look at his game tape from the previous season.

Pass Rush

Over the past two seasons Galette has sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times. In 2014 alone, Galette not only had 10 sacks but also had 13 quarterback hits and 44 quarterback pressures. According to ProFootballFocus, Galette was the second-ranked 4-3 defensive end with a pass rush productivity rating of 12.2. Compare that to Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan who had 13.5 sacks and a 13.0 pass rush productivity good for 4th out of all 3-4 outside linebackers.

Note: Junior Galette is #93 for the Saints, and will be wearing #58 for the Redskins this season.

Play 1 – In this play, Galette rushes as a 3-tech through the B-gap and shows how fast and twitchy he is off of the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t get the sack, but he clearly fools the left guard using shiftiness in space. This play shows his versatility and offers defensive coordinator Joe Barry another method to penetrate th defense.

Play 2 – Here is my favorite pass rush by Galette around the left edge. He takes his first three steps upfield faking inside then cutting outside around the extended right tackle. After he beats him outside he cuts back inside to avoid the chop block by the running back. This a designed fade pass to WR13 Benjamin so Newton releases the ball much earlier than if this was a normal read progression. If the latter was the case this would have been a sack or at the very least a pass disruption that Newton would have to avoid.

Play 3 – Rushing from the exterior, Galette uses the double-swipe to beat the left tackle outside for the sack on quarterback Cam Newton. Watch as Galette makes sure the left tackle doesn’t touch him, then he dips his hips and turns upfield to chase down Newton in the pocket for the sack. Excellent move.

As you can see, Galette is a dynamic pass rusher and offers versatility to the Redskins defense. The one thing I need to note is how frequently he rushed from a three-point stance and the four-point stance. As an outside linebacker he’ll have to rush primarilly from a two-point stance which might take out away his explosiveness off of the snap. Additionally, Galette shows he is a pass rusher who prefers open space and making sure the offensive lineman doesn’t get their hands on him. The amazing thing is how great Galette is at shedding the opposing blockers hands by clubbing or swiping them away. However, it’s clear that Galette doesn’t do the best when asked to use pure strength, but performs well enough when converting a speed rush to a bull rush using excellent hand placement and leverage between the shoulder pads of the blocker.

Run Defense

In run defense Galette is notably weak. Physically Galette stands at 6’2″ 260 lbs which is very stout, but he doesn’t use his strength to his advantage. Instead he prefers to penetrate and use his shiftiness to jump around offensive lineman. This can be a scheme thing as he’s primarilly a snap-reading defender, i.e. watching the ball to act.

Play 4 – Galette engages with left tackle Tyron Smith to set the edge and he gets completely dominated at the point of attack. Galette will have to face Tyron Smith twice a year playing in the NFC East now. Not a good sign at all in this department.

Play 5 – Here is a read-option run by Cam Newton where Galette gets burned by choosing the wrong ball carrier when role is to set the edge first.

Pass Coverage

Pass coverage is not an important aspect of the duties of an outside linebacker in the 3-4 Under. Redskins previous defensive coordinator Jim Haslett tended to use his outside linebacker to cover the running back into flats, but the 3-4 Under mainly has the linebackers play pass rush in the case of the “Will” or contain, then rush in the case of the “Sam”. In 2014, Galette played in pass coverage 60 snaps out of his 812 total defensive snaps. Compare that to Ryan Kerrigan who played 124 snaps of his 1000 total snaps in coverage in 2014. I wouldn’t project him in pass coverage a significant time based on that. Maybe as a decoy in their 3rd down nickle defense, but nothing beyond that.

So…Strongside or Weakside?

In my opinion, Galette fits best as a weakside outside linebacker in the 3-4 Under. His roles would primarilly be to pass rusher, which is his strength, while playing the exterior force position to keep the runner from getting outside. This would also minimize his weakness in run defense while allowing Trent Murphy to play edge duties on obvious run downs.

The question we need to ask now is: How will Joe Barry play his linebackers? This I can’t answer until we see the film during the preseason and the regular season. Ex-Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, for example, kept his linebackers on their side of the field rarely rotating them. Ryan Kerrigan played left outside linebacker while Brian Orakpo, now with the Titans, played as the right outside linebacker for the vast majority of the their defensive snaps. Due to the distinct responsibility differences between the outside linebackers in the 3-4 Under versus the traditional 3-4 Okie system, it is my opinion that Joe Barry needs to play them as weakside vs strongside as opposed to left vs. right.

Now what about the other outside linebackers on the team like Trent Murphy or recently drafted Preston Smith, the 2015 2nd round pick from Mississippi State? Neither Joe Barry nor Jim Haslett liked to play their outside linebackers 100% of the time instead allowing them ample time to rest on the sideline. With the talent the Redskins have at outside linebacker now, they can use a steady rotation of fresh bodies to rush the passer and use their strengths accordingly to benefit the team the most both in pass rush duties and in run stoppage.

Overall, if Junior Galette can keep his nose clean, the Redskins cheaply signed an incredible weapon in pass rush that brings versatility to this defense.

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