The player making his Redskins debut next year who could very well create the most resounding impact for the defending NFC East champions isn’t a recently-signed free agent and won’t be a highly-touted draft pick.
Instead, the guy who is most easy to envision adding a new and dangerous dimension to a roster that still has some holes is Junior Galette, the recovering 28-year-old pass rusher currently working on getting back to football shape.
And, according to Galette’s teammate and fellow pursuer of passers Ryan Kerrigan, the defender who signed in D.C. last offseason before tearing his Achilles tendon is making terrific progress.
“He looks explosive as ever,” Kerrigan said during a conference call with reporters Monday. “He’s kept his weight on, which is good because that’s always a struggle when you have surgery and can’t train like you normally can. I imagine by the time the season rolls around, he’s going to look great.”
Reporters told the world of Kerrigan's "explosive." Galette decided actions speak louder.
That observation from Kerrigan shouldn’t be overlooked. Many have started to assume that Galette will instantly upgrade Washington’s sometimes-it’s-there, sometimes-it’s-not pass rush, and for good reason: He notched 22 total sacks for the Saints in 2013 and 2014.
Yet it’s necessary to remember that the seven-year veteran hasn’t stepped on the field in over a season, and the injury he’s rehabbing is one of the most strenuous ailments to deal with. His production isn’t a guarantee.
Even with that in mind, though, Kerrigan still had trouble limiting his enthusiasm when discussing Galette’s talents and what he could add in 2016.
“You could tell early in training camp that this guy would have been a difference maker for us on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “Having him out there, it should make us better upfront, better all over the field defensively.”
Jay Gruden also has bought himself a seat on the Galette hype train.
“I was a little nervous about getting him back,” the head coach said during last month’s owner’s meetings of Galette, who re-signed with the Redskins March 15. “Great pass rusher, got to get him healthy obviously. He’s working his butt off to get healthy. And he’s going to be a huge, huge help to us on third down next year.”
Gruden did take a slightly more cautious approach when speaking about the edge threat, and understands that his health will be a major factor in whether he can help as advertised. If that Achilles is back to full strength, however, Kerrigan will have plenty of more opportunities to gush about his teammate, and should see a nice bump in his sack numbers as well.
A front seven that includes Kerrigan, Preston Smith and Chris Baker is a solid one. But if you toss in a motivated and inspired Galette? That’s when opposing quarterbacks will start avoiding third-and-long’s against the Burgundy and Gold like Americans try to avoid jury duty.
Yes, FedEx Field’s faithful should wait until training camp and preseason action until they really start tallying predictions of just how much better Washington’s pressure will be. But, if Kerrigan’s assessment of Galette turns out to be true — and he is as "explosive as ever" — then the pocket in front of Joe Barry’s defense will be a lot less safer this year than it was last year.
Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.
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