WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — When Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette tries to forge his way past an offensive tackle and haul a quarterback down for a loss, it constitutes intellectual property theft, in a way.
What else can you call the fact that Galette pilfers every pass rush maneuver possible in the name of evading blockers and sacking QBs, regardless of whether he saw such moves being used in football?
“I definitely steal moves,” Galette said Saturday after receiving credit for at least one sack and causing a holding penalty on what should’ve been a second QB takedown during the Saints intrasquad scrimmage at The Greenbrier resort. “This is a copycat league.”
No one in New Orleans is about to tell him to reform his ways. Four years after making the Saints as an undrafted rookie out of tiny Stillman College, Galette erupted in 2013, and he’s naturally focused on building off that as the Saints toil through the initial portion of training camp.
Galette recorded the sixth-most sacks in the NFL (12) during the regular season — or 2.5 more than he had in his first three seasons. He broke up the first two passes and recovered the first two fumbles of his career, and he amassed 42 of his 79 combined tackles in the NFL on a defense that surrendered the league’s fourth-fewest yards.
Injuries factored into that. The 6-foot-2, 258-pound Galette’s emergence followed year-ending knee ligament tears to outside linebackers Will Smith and Victor Butler in the preseason. That meant he logged 848 regular-season snaps after beginning the year with just 698 in his career.
But there was an even bigger factor enabling Galette to produce the way he did under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who’s entering his second season with the Saints.
“(He) breaks down film. He’s looking at himself, he’s looking at (four-time first-team All-Pro) DeMarcus Ware, he’s looking at all the speed-rushers in the game and he’s stealing moves from everybody,” Pro Bowl teammate Cameron Jordan said recently. “Junior has really become the complete student — of the speed rush, anyways, and that’s what he wants to do.”
Yet what does breaking down game footage and stealing moves involve with Galette? He offered a glimpse into that Saturday.
There’s no set minimum of hours he aims to spend in the film room. But on occasion, a performance of his in a practice upsets him, and he submits himself to a six-hour marathon of film.
“(If) I am just upset at myself, I might get home at 5 o’clock (in the evening) and ... until 11 o’clock I don’t have the TV on,” he said. “I am just watching film. I might watch a play 30 times, over and over, just to slow it down. If I made a mistake, (I want) to never make it again. I am just an extremist with that.”
Galette was evasive when questioned about exactly who he models his game on. He insisted he observed every successful pass rusher as much as possible, co-opting whatever he could from whomever he could.
That emboldens him to put his own spin on moves or outright invent some. He discussed one that he likened to a basketball “Euro step,” in which a dribbler steps in one direction but with the other foot quickly steps in another direction to unbalance and get around opponents.
“I’ll give someone a Euro step ... on the football field,” Galette said, “and they’re like, ‘What was that?’ And I’m like, ‘I was looking at your feet, just messing around with you to see if it worked. And then it worked.’ ”
The outcome is an unorthodox playing style that baffles blockers. Saints left tackle Terron Armstead in April said Galette’s unconventional methods make him quicker than someone his size should seem to be.
“We get his best every day,” Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis said last month. “That has allowed him to improve into a really good player for us and a guy that I think will continue to improve and get more notoriety.”
What better way is there to gain notoriety than stealing — moves, that is?
“I saw guys come in the league and just got comfortable at my position or complacent,” Galette said. “That’s not the position I wanted to put myself. (So) I did a lot of different things that they did.”