Sleeping with the Enemy Part 2; Junior Galette, New Orleans Saints focused on Cowboys' thriving run game

The Dallas Cowboys began the process of reshaping their offensive line in 2011 when they drafted tackle Tyron Smith with the ninth overall pick.

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It wasn't a bad start.

Smith made his first Pro Bowl in 2013 and signed a whopping eight-year contract in July that includes $40 million in guaranteed money and makes him the richest left tackle in football.

The Cowboys added two more first-round linemen -- Travis Frederick in 2013 and Zack Martin in May. Now that their line is in place, the Cowboys are running behind it more than anyone ever expected.

The once pass-heavy offense directed by quarterback Tony Romo will have a different look when the Cowboys (2-1) play the New Orleans Saints (1-2) on Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.

"We had to make that commitment and we did," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett in a conference call with New Orleans media on Wednesday.

The commitment has paid off for running back DeMarco Murray, who has 385 rushing yards through the first three games (a 2,000-yard pace). The Cowboys have the third-ranked rushing offense in the league, posing a new challenge for Junior Galette and the Saints' defense.

"(Murray) is the main guy. He's the foundation of everything," said Galette, the Saints' edge rusher on the defensive line.

The Saints are near the bottom of the league in overall defense, but ranked ninth against the run. That's partly a product of their early opposition, including a Minnesota Vikings team without Adrian Peterson.

For Galette, the Cowboys' production in the running game will require a different approach than, say, the opener against the Atlanta Falcons when he could rare back and rush the passer with abandon.

"As a rusher, you obviously want to rush, but you're not going to do that job every week unless you stop the run," Galette said.

Galette said the Cowboys' success on the ground will eventually pay dividends for its passing game.

"They're 2-1 right now, so it's working out pretty well for them," he said. "If you run the ball, now you've got guys loading the box up because you want to stop the run. That's when a good quarterback turns into an elite quarterback because of the running game."

The Cowboys were 24th in the NFL in rushing only a year ago; they finished 8-8 in 2013, including a 49-17 loss to the Saints in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

"I think it's a fact that the balance makes it more challenging," said Saints coach Sean Payton. "I think that it complements the defense and sets up the down-the-field play-action pass opportunities. Anytime a team is two-dimensional rather than one dimensional, I think it makes it more challenging."

For the Saints, Galette's role and responsibility can be dictated by the scheme, which is often dictated by the opponent.

Galette has played in roughly 85 percent of the Saints' nearly 200 defensive snaps through three games.

Galette has lined up with his hand (or, usually, hands) on the turf in 70.5 percent of his snaps, according to an analysis by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

Galette stands up in the remaining 29.5 percent of his snaps. Sometimes that means he's just trying to disguise intentions. On other occasions, he'll stay put to guard the run or drop back into pass coverage.

On at least three occasions, Galette has even played a traditional linebacker role, set back from the line of scrimmage.

"It depends on what scheme we call," Galette said. "Sometimes I want to show like I'm in coverage and kind of time (the snap)."

Although Galette isn't on the field to be a run-stopper, the Saints have held rushers to just under 4 yards per snap when he's playing. On the 13 running plays in which Galette was standing up as an outside linebacker, opponents managed only 39 yards (an average of 3 per carry).

That kind of production might be difficult to repeat. Galette said he expects to line up much of the time against Smith, who he considers one of the league's top tackles.

"Facing Smith, that's going to be tough," he said. "But you've got to stop the run."
Sleeping with the Enemy Part 2; Junior Galette, New Orleans Saints focused on Cowboys' thriving run game Sleeping with the Enemy Part 2; Junior Galette, New Orleans Saints focused on Cowboys' thriving run game Reviewed by Mr. DCStands4 on 12:07:00 PM Rating: 5

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