Garcia appeared in two games late last season, totaling one tackle. Entering training camp this summer, most fans and pundits probably saw him as a player vying for a spot on the practice squad.
However, Garcia excelled during the preseason, racking up six tackles, two sacks and an interception on his way to making the staff of 53 men.
“Elijah has all the traits you’re looking for: size, length, plays hard, plays hard,” general manager George Paton said after the team’s roster cuts last week. “You look at the preseason: we liked that he came out of the closet. We thought he had features that were crude.
“We watched preseason when he was with the Rams and we saw those traits. [Defensive line coach] frame [Dixon] he liked. At the end of the season, especially when you’re not winning, you’re looking for future guys.”
Paton also credited the explorers AJ Durso, Patrick Walsh, and Reed Burkhardt.
“Those guys identified it and it worked,” Payton said.
Now entering his second NFL season, Garcia is poised to serve as a rotational defensive lineman on Vance Joseph’s defense this fall.