Shortly after hearing the news, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden walked the hallway outside the locker room with his head down, muttering to himself. He was having a bad day: doctors had just confirmed that linebacker Junior Galette had torn his Achilles’ tendon.
Because he’d spent less than a month with the Redskins, it was hard for some to understand why this loss hit them so hard. But coaches on both sides of the ball salivated over what he might do, based on what they saw in practice. One coach admitted calling a family member just to tell them about Galette.
Galette will sign his new deal Wednesday, a one-year contract worth up to $4.1 million. It’s not the amount he was originally seeking, but this will be a motivated player. He has a chance for a big payday next offseason. The Redskins have a chance to have a highly-motivated player who has excellent skills at a premium position. If Galette plays well and earns a big payday, the Redskins will have benefited -- he's the defensive version of quarterback Kirk Cousins (minus $15 million, of course).
He won’t be a savior for the defense, but he should be an important part. He’s one of only six pass-rushers to record double digits in sacks in 2013 and ’14 (he had 22 sacks total during that time). He’s the potential impact player Washington has not found outside its franchise this offseason.
A couple sights stuck with me when it came to Galette and what he showed last summer:
His speed. Galette’s get-off was excellent and a big reason why he gave left tackle Trent Williams a handful during one-on-one pass rush work or even in full-team play. Williams has dominated training camp for years, but Galette was able to speed by him on occasion -- and it allowed him to set up inside moves as well. Anyone who watched Galette work in Richmond, Virginia, was convinced of the impact he would make in 2015. Nobody has beaten Williams the way Galette did; it wasn’t every play, but it was enough to challenge the Pro Bowl tackle more than anyone else.
His ability to turn the corner. Galette has a knack for being able to turn the corner at a very, very low angle. If you can’t turn the corner and maintain your balance, you won’t be a premier pass-rusher -- or even a good one. But Galette showed incredible balance when turning the corner -- and he didn’t lose his speed when doing so. It was impressive.
Stunts. It’ll be fun and interesting to watch how the Redskins use their pass-rush talent. They now have some flexibility and versatility with their rushers. Ryan Kerrigan and Galette offer different matchup possibilities so the Redskins can mix and match their skills. They wanted to do that when Brian Orakpo played here, but Galette gets off the ball a little quicker. But when it comes to stunts, it won’t be Kerrigan who he’ll be next to; I could see Galette and, say, Preston Smith performing them. Smith’s big frame and Galette’s quickness would be a good match.
Versatility. Also, I’m sure part of the plan eventually will be to use Galette in multiple ways. Thanks to Smith’s ability to play up or down in their nickel package, they could always use Galette in a standup spot in the middle behind the line, allowing him to pick a gap and allowing him to emphasize his burst. The Redskins now have three pass-rushers 28 or younger, something I don't think has happened in quite a while.
That versatility also includes those around Galette. There’s still internal talk about moving Trent Murphy to defensive end (assuming he can pack on about 20 pounds). He hasn’t been much of a pass-rusher at linebacker, but perhaps at defensive end his length would make a difference. If Murphy does move, and if he can handle the position, it would increase the Redskins' versatility and flexibility in terms of what they can do with their rush. But it starts with Galette.