After working all winter to solidify their defense, the Saints opened their offseason program wondering if they’d be without their best pass rusher.
News broke last week that edge rusher Junior Galette suffered a pectoral injury, which put his availability for the early portion of the season — if not all of it — in doubt. Now, however, it appears last year’s leader in sacks will avoid the operating table.
Galette recently received a second opinion from noted surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who determined the injury could be managed through rest and rehabilitation, according to the NFL Network.
Galette suffered the injury while lifting weights and now could potentially be available for the start of the season. If he follows that timeline or only misses a minimal amount of time, it would be a huge boost for this defense.
One of New Orleans’ biggest issues last season was generating pressure on quarterbacks. Galette, who finished with 10 sacks and generated 67 pressures, was one of the few bright spots in this area. Taking him off the field would be a major blow for the defense.
The Saints took measures to improve this area. Along with drafting Hau’oli Kikaha in the second round, the team also signed Anthony Spencer, who had his best seasons playing under Rob Ryan in Dallas, to a one-year deal.
If Galette is unable to play for any amount of time, it’s likely one of those players would take his spot on the field. Spencer served in that role during organized team activities.
It’s possible that Galette will serve in a different capacity next season. An every down player for most of last year, he was limited to pass-rushing situations late in the year. Serving in this capacity, his exposure to running plays — which is the weak point of his game — were minimized.
If he is used in a similar fashion next season, it would minimize the amount of times he has to defend against the run and allow him to focus on getting after the passer. Considering the Saints were in their nickel defense more than 70 percent of the time last season, it would not result in a major reduction in playing time.
If used this way, it’s also possible that defensive end Cam Jordan will move to the inside in the nickel defense, with either Kikaha or Spencer playing opposite Galette at defensive end.
If Galette misses any amount of time, it could be more difficult for New Orleans to move Jordan around since it would require both Spencer and Kikaha being on the field at the end positions. That might be too much to ask, and it’s possible the best front four without Galette could include John Jenkins, Brodrick Bunkley or someone else at defensive tackle and Jordan at defensive end.
If nothing else, a healthy Galette gives New Orleans more options.
Via- Nick Underhill, Black&Gold