When New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Junior Galette drove up to the team’s training facility Saturday morning, he got all the inspiration he needed for a scrimmage that capped the first 10 days of training camp.
A line of black-and-gold-clad fans — many of whom were there to see how the team’s new 3-4 defense would look in game-like situations — stretched nearly a quarter-mile past the facility.
“To have such strong fans, that’s a blessing,” Galette said later. “When I saw that coming in, I said, ‘Man, I’ve got to have a monster day.’ ”
Sufficiently motivated, he went out and had two sacks to spark a defensive effort that had fans cheering them instead of jeering, as they did a year ago, when the Saints allowed an NFL single-season record 7,042 yards.
Led by Galette’s sacks — one each against Drew Brees and Luke McCown — the Saints had a total of five sacks during the 64-play scrimmage. They also had three takeaways on two interceptions and a fumble, pleasing coach Sean Payton, new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan — and 5,123 fans.
“I was pleased with the turnovers,” Payton said. “That’s something we have been emphasizing. I thought they took advantage of those snaps.
“I thought we rushed the passer well, at times, and probably got into some long-yardage situations a little bit too much for us, offensively. I was pleased with that element (defensively).”
In addition to Galette, defensive ends Akiem Hicks and Jay Richardson and outside linebacker Eric Martin recorded sacks.
Martin added another big play when he stripped running back Mark Ingram of the ball with free safety Rafael Bush recovering, and veteran cornerback Chris Carr, who was signed in mid-June, had a hand in both interceptions.
Carr picked off a Ryan Griffin pass, then stepped in front of wide receiver Nick Toon to tip away a pass that wound up in the hands of linebacker David Hawthorne. Also, when the starting offense and starting defense went against each other, the defense had a three-and-out that ended with Galette barging into the backfield to get Brees for a 6-yard sack.
“He’s doing that every day,” Ryan said of Galette, who made the switch from defensive end to linebacker when the Saints went to the 3-4 defense this spring.
“I think we got a few stops against one of the best quarterbacks in the league,” Galette said. “I think we looked pretty good, but there is always room for (improvement).”
Ryan agreed, even though he was happy with the effort, and, for the most part, the results, even though there were a few big plays — a 19-yard run by Khiry Robinson, an 18-yard run by Pierre Thomas and a 39-yard pass from McCown to wide receiver Chris Givens.
“Our players played well and they played hard,” he said. “It wasn’t perfect, but there’s never a perfect scrimmage. I was happy with the way we played. ... We got turnovers, and we played hard.
“We’ve got to be better against the run, but again, we’re not complaining about it. I thought the effort was good, and for a first scrimmage, I thought things went well.”