METAIRIE, La. — Junior Galette isn’t concerned that the Saints kept only three outside linebackers on their initial 2013 regular season roster.
His faith is rooted in the ability of his defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, finding the best scheme for what players he has at his disposal.
And that means finding a way to properly use three outside linebackers, two of which are coming off preseason injuries, five inside linebackers and a bevy of defensive linemen.
“I feel like we’re more than just a 3-4 front,” Galette said. “Rob does a lot of things to mix things up and puts guys in positions to make plays. He knows what he has so I feel like it’s just different personnel groupings that he’ll have to eliminate that question mark of three outside linebackers.”
The Saints spent much of the offseason declaring that a switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 was in the team’s best interest. In so doing, they moved defensive end Will Smith to outside linebacker and signed free agent Victor Butler to play opposite of him.
But then Butler went down with a torn left anterior cruciate ligament during organized team activities, moving Galette up to the first team. Galette, though, was injured early in training camp and missed all preseason games. That happened around the time that Martez Wilson dislocated his left elbow, keeping him sidelined for all of training camp.
And then in New Orleans’ penultimate preseason game against Houston, Smith went down with a knee injury, too. Smith went on injured reserve shortly thereafter and the Saints traded for San Francisco linebacker Parys Haralson.
In New Orleans’ preseason finale, it appeared Ryan already was calling an audible, playing a bit more 4-3 than one would expect for a 3-4 team.
The good news? Both Galette and Wilson practiced fully Wednesday.
The bad news? None of the three outside linebackers have played for the Saints this preseason. Wilson said that matters.
“Of course it matters,” he said. “Every rep counts. You need the experience of every play. You need to see play recognition and the preseason helps with that. Now it’s time for the season.”
Of the three, Haralson should fit in the best and feel the most comfortable. He spent all of his time in San Francisco playing in a 3-4, including this preseason. Though not with the Saints, he said it’s not like he’s coming in off the street.
“It’s not like I’ve been sitting out the whole time and then got off the couch and came here,” Haralson said. “They didn’t come get me from the bar. I was actually playing football and practicing. It’s one of those things. It’s football, man.”