Jan 7, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive end Junior Galette (93) reacts against the Detroit Lions during the 2011 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Saints defeated the Lions 45-28. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

New Orleans Saints Junior Galette rising


Undrafted free agent Junior Galette has been a revelation in training camp and in the preseason for the New Orleans Saints. So much so, that Galette looks like the clear starter at right defensive end while Will Smith serves his four-game suspension in the regular season for Bountygate.

An explosive pass rusher, Galette went undrafted due to character concerns. The thing is, character concerns are almost always overblown and players with those concerns often end up being the best bargains in the draft.

Anyway, as the New England Patriots writer, I witnessed Galette’s explosiveness while watching him working on the Pats offensive line. Granted Marcus Cannon is a poor pass protector, but Junior Galette exposed him repeatedly with his explosiveness. Cannon struggled mightily, but a large part of that is due to Galette.

The Saints pass rush was abysmal last year, so the emergence of the undrafted rookie is certainly crucial. Not only that, but losing Will Smith for the first four games looks like less of a blow as well. Without Galette, the Saints pass rush would be almost non-existent from the edges. I haven’t seen enough from Cameron Jordan to feel like he’s the answer yet, and Smith is their best pass rusher and was the only source of QB disruption last season.

Explosiveness is the main things you want from in a young pass rusher, and an often overlooked stat is that Galette had 4.5 sacks last season in very limited snaps. Those snaps have to increase, and he deserves to play a big role for this defense in the pass rushing rotation even when Smith comes back. He’ll be the starter through the first four games for sure.

In the Saints most recent preseason game, Junior Galette was playing at a high level against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert. Granted both line and quarterback are well below-average, but he put in some impressive work and is showing that he can consistently beat the competition he faces. The sack totals from last season in limited opportunities show that the 24-year-old is no fluke, and he’s the team’s best edge rusher with Smith being more of a power rusher.

All told, I love watching this guy play, because I’m a big fan of quick, athletic defensive ends who put pressure on the quarterback and make life difficult for offensive tackles. I want to see him have a big game against tougher competition, but Galette has certainly impressed me enough and has done enough to show that he deserves a starting role with the team until Smith returns.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

Tags: Blaine Gabbert Cameron Jordan Jacksonville Jaguars Junior Galette Marcus Cannon New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFC South Will Smith