Photos of Junior Galette from the 2014 regular season. Photos by Michael C. Hebert. (New Orleans Saints photos)
Junior Galette isn't going for the menacing look, though his beard – long and dense enough to earn its own comb, and probably Twitter account – gives him the appearance of a man whose glare would settle most disputes.
Galette is bottled frenzy until game day. He's relentlessness personified. He's full-speed, all-out each and every play he's on the field.
And he's a major reason that entering Sunday's game between the New Orleans Saints (4-4) and 49ers (4-4) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the defense of the Saints appears to have located its footing after a slippery beginning of the season.
In the first four games, when New Orleans was 1-3, the defense allowed 396 yards per game. In the last four, during which the Saints have gone 3-1, it has allowed 345 per game.
In the first four, the defense forced one turnover and produced five sacks. In the last four, it has eight turnovers and 12 sacks.
Galette, in the first four, totaled 19 tackles and two sacks. In the last four, he has amassed 17 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defensed – including two sacks, a tackle for loss, two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble last Thursday, in the Saints' 28-10 road victory over Carolina. On Wednesday he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
"We always believed in ourselves," he said. "We didn't listen to the white noise, and just kept working as a unit and didn't point any fingers. We have the guys that are capable of producing, and that's what we've been doing."
Specifically, though, Galette has been on a run, with one-third of the team's sacks and probably as many quarterback hurries during the streak in which the Saints evened their record and took over first place in the NFC South.
It's exactly the kind of production that was expected of Galette after last year, when the outside linebacker finished with 12 sacks, second-most in a season in franchise history by an undrafted player. He also added a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and three passes defensed.
"That's what they brought me here to do, get after the quarterback," he said. "When (sacks) come, they come in bunches. It's not something you should worry about. You've just got to play at a high level and as hard as you can."
The latter never, ever has been a problem for Galette.
He possibly can churn himself into exhaustion during player introductions, such is the animation. He can celebrate a big play with enough juice – his sack/safety of Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon comes to mind – to light up the Superdome.
Team him with defensive end Cam Jordan (12.5 sacks last season, four this year) and the Saints have one of the league's best pass-rushing duos at work.
"He's coming off a big game for us," Coach Sean Payton said of Galette. "The one thing about him is, he's got that ability down in and down out. A lot of times, when your snap count gets north of 50, it becomes more challenging. We've done a good job with the rotation and keeping him fresh.
"But it's a game of being able to throw the football on third down and being able to affect the passer on third down. I think that's important."
It's important to Payton, and to Galette's teammates – especially the ones on the back end, who often are in position to capitalize on Galette's relentlessness in pursuing quarterbacks.
"What he brings for me is, every play he's just real passionate," safety Kenny Vaccaro said. "Aside from his pass rush, just the teammate he is, the leader he is – he's not a guy that's going to give these heroic speeches. You're going to feel his energy."
Said cornerback Corey White: "Junior is going to be Junior. He's going to ball out, regardless. Some games he may not have the amazing three-sack game, but he's going to do his thing. He's going to ball out."