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Free agent LB Junior Galette talks film, Kendall Fuller and what role he’s looking for

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Washington Redskins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The interview

In addition to the Junior Galette film review (below), we had the opportunity to peek inside the mind of a pass rusher this time around. While working on this piece, I reached out to Galette to ask him if he’d be interested in answering some questions about himself and pass rushing, and we had a chance to talk football for a bit.

1. I’d almost describe your primary rush move as a basketball-style “euro step.” Can you walk me through what your thought process is when you rush the passer, with regards to moves and counters?

“I wouldn’t even say it’s a primary rush, it’s more so just relative to where I’m at on the rush plan (and also the scheme we’re in) to get the tackle to stop his feet and I work the edge.”

2. There aren’t a lot of snaps available snaps to review of you playing run defense, but this one is a good one. Can you walk me through what happens here from an edge defender point of view? Are you confident in your ability to set the edge?

“There are tons of snaps of me playing run defense, you just have to go back a few years! I started back-to-back years for the Saints and had 750-plus snaps in ‘13 and ‘14. Coming back off two Achilles [injuries], the Redskins told me they were being conservative and didn’t want me to get hurt again. It wasn’t primarily passing downs I was in, it was strictly a matter of when the position coach felt for me to go in. If you look at the sporadic snaps this year, you will see the number of reps I got the last four games vs the first four. Stopping the run or setting the edge has never been an issue.”

3. You played primarily on rushing downs as essentially a hand-in-the-dirt DE on most snaps last season. Is that your preference, or do you view yourself as a 3-4 OLB as well, with all the different responsibilities that come with it?

“It doesn’t matter what defense I’m in, 3-4 or 4-3. I’ve played for [Steve] Spagnola in a 4-3 when he came to New Orleans, and I’ve also had my best years in a 3-4 under Rob Ryan. So to me, it really does not matter as long as I’m on the field.”

4. You played in a rotation last season in Washington. Are you looking for a full-time role now?

“Yes. But if what’s best for the team is getting 35 snaps per game opposed to 45-50, I am all for it. However, I am preparing my body to be the best I’ve ever been, even better than ‘13 and ‘14.”

5. All right, for the football nerds who can’t get enough of Xs and Os… Can you describe this snap for me? It looks to me like you set up the tackle with a jab step outside then swatted his hands down, but then had to adjust when he sold out inside. But I’m just a pastor/lawyer; you’re the edge rusher. What happened here?

“My get-off and where the tackle is when I land my first step has a lot to do with what rush I will use. This rush, I felt like I didn’t get a good get off but got him to stop his feet and shoot his hands.”

6. Since this is for a Chiefs website, what do you think of Justin Houston?

“The first time I saw him play was when the Chiefs came to New Orleans in 2012. He dominated and had a three-sack game. I remember because I think we went to OT and he won the game with another sack. I finished with two sacks but knew in the back of my head that there was a player on the Chiefs I had to learn about. Long story short, we use the same pass rush coach now.”

(Side note: Junior sent me a video of him working with... you guessed it, the master, Joe Kim)

7. I appreciate your time to walk us through your film a bit, and hope you kill it in free agency. Last question, and I have to… Can you give Chiefs fans any thoughts on Kendall Fuller? Most of them have never watched him.

“Kendall Fuller is one of those guys who just gets football. His entire immediate family I think has experience in the NFL. By far one of the smartest players I know, and he is very humble as well. That’s an ultimate win for any team, love that kid.”

We’ll see what direction the Chiefs go this offseason with regards to edge rusher. They could do anything from stand pat to signed multiple players. Nothing would surprise me at this point. But in a year where there are not many talented edge rushers around, Galette would be a very interesting direction to go.

On a final note, I had a chance to chat with a Chiefs player about what he’d think of the Chiefs going after Galette. His response?

“Sure, he’s a dominant force, very disruptive and would love to add him to this championship defense.”

The film review

I’m a pretty easy person to distract. Mrs. MNchiefsfan can confirm this. There are times she’s attempting to have a conversation with me and something catches my peripheral vision and... I’m gone. Even worse, sometimes it doesn’t even require me seeing something. My poor wife can be in the middle of a sentence and I’ll start thinking about how great Kendall Fuller looked on film and... I’m gone.

This is relevant for you guys today, because as I was researching my “If I were Brett Veach” article regarding defensive free agency, I got distracted.

For me, it was the equivalent of a dog seeing a squirrel as it’s been driven around in the back of a truck. I started to wonder if, given Galette’s specific history and some of the unfortunate things he’s had happen injury-wise, he might be a diamond in the rough in free agency. Then I saw this:

This caused my level of intrigue to tick up even more (though even pressure rates can be wildly affected by context, such as having multiple good rushers around like Galette did).

And so, because I’m a guy who is obsessive, I had to review a little film. I view edge rusher as one of the most important positions in the league. While the Chiefs currently have Dee Ford under contract for 2018, there have been a number of questions as to whether he will stick around considering the size of his cap hit (8.7 million dollars per Spotrac) and the fact that none of it is guaranteed if he’s cut for non-injury reasons (which isn’t a given, seeing as he ended the year on IR).

Because of this, and because Ford has been unreliable in terms of health and in terms of consistency, I view edge rusher as a potential position to address in free agency. And now that Galette had caught my attention, well... you’ve all seen how this story ends.

I reviewed a couple of his 2017 games to see how he held up using my system of gauging edge rushers. In short, I review every snap and grade each play as a pass rusher (PR) and run defender (RD) as a win, loss, or neutral. I also look at pressures/hits/sacks, effective double teams forced, and runs stuffed.

I chose the second Philadelphia game and the Denver game to review, as they were games in which Galette played plenty of snaps and also featured a game against a bad offensive line and a good offensive line. Always good to get a variety there. Let’s look at the numbers, then talk some film.

All right, keep in mind those numbers are from two games, so we don’t have a large enough sample size to tell us anything definitive. However, it’s interesting to me that Galette was able to maintain a similar level of wins and losses going against a superior line vs an inferior line (the Broncos tackles are... well, yeah).

For a frame of reference regarding those win/loss percentages, in 2016 (the last year he saw significant snaps and was considered a contributor, albeit at a reduced level), Tamba Hali had a 17.1 win percentage and a 26.9 loss percentage. For more context, in a one-game sample, Tanoh Kpassagnon had a 21.9 win percentage and a 25 loss percentage.

Galette wins a fair amount of the time due to his footwork and natural quickness. He’s a unique pass rusher in that he utilizes a lot of side-to-side movement, taking advantage of his agility in space.

Galette definitely utilizes speed and agility in his rush more than power, but he, at times, will convert to a speed-to-power rush when tackles overcompensate to the outside for fear of getting beat around the edge. He is also very adept at shifting inside on finesse moves, meaning tackles can’t “cheat” inside or outside against him for fear of getting beat going the other direction.

Galette also utilizes a variety of moves when rushing the passer. In two games I saw a speed rush, bull rush, speed to power, club, what I can best describe as a “euro step,” a spin move and a rip (most of them more than once). I like guys who pass rush with a plan as opposed to simply blindly moving forward.

As a rusher, Galette is fast, effective and talented. He can get swallowed up by tackles on the edge if they are able to get their hands on him, which presents the only real weakness I observed in him. I would not call him a power rusher by any means. However, he’s able to give tackles problems in multiple directions, which makes him tough to prepare for.

As a run defender, Galette didn’t see many snaps. But he did demonstrate some functional strength and awareness in setting the edge or pursuing down the line.

He also demonstrated the ability to make blockers miss in space, which is invaluable for a guy who is attempting to get penetration against the run.

While Galette wasn’t able to finish in the above play, his immediate “win” on the edge due to quick feet was the primary reason this play was a disaster for the Eagles. On a side note, plays like this are another reason tracking stats is a bad way to gauge a player’s impact. You miss important nuances of the game, such as a player immediately beating his blocker and blowing up the play before it has any chance of success.

With regards to Galette’s usage, there are a number of people on Twitter who asked me whether he could fit in the Chiefs’ system, as he was primarily a pass rusher who started off in with one (or both) hands on the ground. However, in the two games I watched I saw him playing from a two-point stance on the edge approximately eight to 10 times, and he didn’t seem uncomfortable doing so. He also was asked to drop into zone coverage three to four times and was able to get where he needed to go (though it didn’t appear to be his forte) on those occasions, with proper depth and attention to the receivers in his zone being achieved. He even blitzed from an ILB spot a few times.

In short, from a football perspective, Galette appears to be a legitimate option to help solve some of the Chiefs’ pass-rushing woes if they choose to move on from Dee Ford. I believe he would offer more consistent pass rush (as Ford tends to run hot and cold) and would be stronger against the run. He rushed successfully from both sides frequently in the games I watched, which is a definite bonus.

What price he’d command is open for debate. On one hand, he’s coming off a part-time season after a pair of injury-plagued years. On the other hand, he was consistently able to generate pressure from the edge last year, and the league has an insatiable appetite for edge rushers. Almost nothing would surprise me, from a one-year “prove it” deal to a multi-year deal for solid money.