For nearly two –plus years now, say the word beast on a Saints fan message board and you’ll undoubtedly start a multi-page conversation about defensive end Junior Galette.
While in the past that might have gotten to Galette’s head, the more mature defensive end isn’t paying attention to, well, the attention he’s getting off the field.
Galette credits the Saints’ locker room for helping him achieve the next step in his evolution into someone who can help the team win.
“Basically you get messages of what you have to do off the field to have success in the league,” Galette said. “If you want to take advantage and be a good player in the league you have to show that you are a better player than last year.”
The 6-foot-2, 258-pound speed rusher is likely to take on a bigger role, especially in the first four games when Will Smith serves his suspension.
A season ago, Galette played in all 16 games and finished with 27 total tackles and 4½ sacks.
Coaches are looking for him to have an even bigger impact this season.
“His arrow is pointing up,” defensive line coach Bill Johnson said. “He has got some experience now and it’s time for him to go and play and help us win games.”
He could have that opportunity under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Pressure from defensive linemenis a critical part of Spagnuolo’s defensive philosophy and Galette’s athleticism could fit in perfectly.
The speed rusher has the ability to chase down most players and the strength to bring down the bigger ones.
The key for him ever since joining the Saints, though, has been doing what he’s supposed to be doing and not freelancing off the field.
His teammates have noticed.
“A little bit when he first got here. Junior will be the first to tell you about us joking around,” Saints linebacker Scott Shanle said. “I think he takes a lot of pride in how far he’s come, though. I see him teaching the young guys and it’s always good to see a veteran with that roll flipped. It’s been good to see him grow.”
And now they’re expecting more from him.
“I think a lot of us veterans who have been here for a few years now have a lot of respect for him and I think he’s going to be an even bigger contributor this year,” Shanle said.