Re-signing Junior Galette was a strategically important move for the Washington Redskins. Finding ways to maximize Galette plus fellow pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith becomes among the most crucial tactical matters before the 2016 season begins.
Some might disagree about the importance of keeping the free agent because of Galette’s past and the fact that he is still recovering from a blown Achilles. For value and potential, there was nobody that was going to supplant what Galette could bring.
By all accounts, the Redskins got Galette back at a more than reasonable price despite the potential dollars costing them more than 2015's contract. The reasons outlined in the previous paragraph explain why.
So now what? How do the Redskins capitalize on their investment so that Galette can hunt down Tony Romo, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford? How do they make sure that the ex-Saint doesn’t get frustrated with his role and his opportunities?
Make no mistake, Galette knows that sacks and not necessarily just pressure will get him paid. He received a hefty contract with New Orleans and soon he'd like another. Redemption on and off the field in 2016 probably makes his wish come true.
The thing is, the veteran Kerrigan (47.5 career sacks) and the partially developed Preston Smith (8.0 sacks as a 2015 rookie) will play plenty. On a base level, all three play the same outside linebacker position. With all that said, let's take an educated guess as to how this is going to work for Washington.
The only thing that I am absolutely sure of is this: Left tackles on opposing teams better eat their Wheaties on game day mornings. That’s because Galette is going to be flying off the right edge of the Redskins defense with reckless abandon.
Washington lines up in nickel packages (with different personnel and designs) somewhere in the neighborhood of or at least not less than 60 % of the time.
When the Redskins are in nickel, the design I expect to see the most would include two down linemen, four linebackers and five defensive backs.
However, the basic design of these packages under defensive coordinator Joe Barry will offer feature only one pure defensive lineman on the field. That’s because Washington should and -- assuming all are healthy -- will have Galette, Smith and Kerrigan on the field at the same time.
How do they accomplish that? Simple. The 271-pound Smith is big and athletic enough to be kicked inside as a “down” option. If you pair Smith with linemen Chris Baker, Stephen Paea or Ricky Jean Francois for different looks and rotation purposes, you get an array of fronts opposing offensive lines must analyze and counter on the fly.
Smith was used in this manner at Mississippi State. Film work shows he had success and I know that was one aspect of his game that attracted Redskins officials.
Washington didn't deploy Smith often this way during In his rookie year. He had enough to deal with making the conversion to the NFL and playing in more space off the edge. This year, that will very likely change now that Smith can lean on his overall experience. That switch would allow the 258-pound Galette to rush from the outside, his best angle.
If they want a package that features Smith and Galette rushing from the outside, the Redskins can kick the 6-foot-4 Kerrigan inside at times. At times, during the Jim Haslett years and with a healthy Brian Orakpo (I know what you are thinking), Washington did kick Kerrigan down.
The status of Trent Murphy and how he will potentially be used is still up in the air. Will he purely be in base packages as an outside linebacker to help stop the run? Who knows, but the former second-round pick is now a secondary option.
They good thing is the Redskins have a lot of options. They have depth which means multiple waves of pass rushers and plenty of possibilities for the coaching staff.
Oh, and that was just about nickel packages. The Redskins will show some "dime" looks and of course, their base formations. Don't count on Galette receiving lots of snaps, especially early in the year, in those base concepts. When it comes to obvious or likely running situations for the opponent, pass on using Galette and so he can use his energy to take down passers. Why not keep him fresh to unleash the fury??
We all have our own football sensibilities, but I never understood why some thought Galette, who had 22 sacks during his last two seasons with New Orleans, wasn't a must-have player. As his injury proved, there's the need for depth at a crucial area. As the Redskins hope to show this season, there's the plan to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
With the contract work complete, the coaching staff now has the next five months to figure how they can use Galette, Kerrigan and Smith. Unleash the fury indeed.
Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621.
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