The Hawks surprised everyone earlier this week when they waived Anthony Harris and subsequently traded Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. While there are some projections for his transition from nickel cornerback to safety, Howie Rothman has done a good job of getting a talent who needs a position relatively cheaply.
To learn more about Philadelphia’s new defensive back, I thought it would be helpful for Bleeding Green Nation readers to have some insider knowledge of him.So I contacted Chris Dunnells from canal street chroniclecles. Here’s what a representative of the SB Nation New Orleans Saints blog had to say.
1 – How did Saints fans react to the deal? From a New Orleans perspective, what letter grade would you give it?
I think it’s safe to say that the vast majority of Saints fans aren’t happy with the deal. The emotional aspects of football and the overall connection fans have with certain players are often blinded by the objective perception of those players by fans. CJ Gardner-Johnson has quickly won over Saints fans with his energy and confidence from the corners/nicks. His abuse on social media, on and off the field, sparked modern meme culture at Who Dat Nation.
Granted, the trade compensation was lower than I initially expected. The Saints appear to be in a position to be forced to trade the talented, young corner player when it comes to letting the Saints management benefit from the skepticism and piecing together various reports in the local media. But the problem is that Gardner Johnson wants to be paid for a top safety, not just a five-cent corner. When the Saints said they wouldn’t pay him “maximum security,” he reportedly attended training camp and was basically just physically active. He refuses to be coached and generally still sticks to a new contract he thinks he deserves. Given the Saints’ trade compensation from Philadelphia, I have to believe that, like the Saints, there aren’t many teams in the NFL willing to offer the type of contract Gardner-Johnson is asking for. This means that the Saints actually The generals are forced to take whatever they can from a team willing to pay for Gardner Johnson’s services.
I’m still blaming the Saints front office for the same mistake because they let things get to this point in the first place, so I give the trade a C+. Ideally, the Saints should be able to work with Gardner-Johnson to complete the final year of his contract, but that didn’t happen. Clearly opportunity cost plays into that, though, and we might end up looking at this deal differently based on Gardner Johnson’s new contract and the two picks the Saints got in this trade.
2 – How do you look back on CJGJ’s time with the Saints?
“High energy” is a phrase I’ll keep repeating. Like most NFL defensive backs, if opposing receivers catch him, he’s quick to chalk it up to factors unrelated to his coverage. But if the receiver doesn’t catch the ball for whatever reason, even for something like being overturned, CJGJ will jump up and celebrate, and his teammates can soak up that energy. He doesn’t shy away from getting into the faces of opposing receivers (check out the Javon Wims incident in the 2020 playoffs), or even the faces of opposing quarterbacks (CJ staring at Tom Brady’s meme is priceless).
3 – What are his strengths? Do you think these are good for his transition to safety?
4 – What is his weakness?
I’ll answer the pros and cons together.
The energy I described above is his power. Combined with his ability to play decent but not great coverage and be a decent but not great tackler generally makes him best suited to use his physicality in slot games to press and defend slot receivers or Tight Terminator lines.
Can he transition to full-time security? I’m not sure.
He has below-average coverage and is often deceived by the eyes of opposing quarterbacks. He’s often been forced to rely on his speed and athleticism (an unofficial 4.48 40) to make up for reported misses. Freedom and safety may not be his strong suit. He is better suited for a strong security role. But I think what’s most telling about CJ’s long-term potential as a safety is the series of moves the Saints have made this offseason.
Saints lose their starting safety this offseason, Marcus Williams joins baltimore ravens Hanging up in free agency and the retirement of our mutual friend Malcolm Jenkins. Even so, and knowing that CJ has been in the organization for the past few years, the Saints decided to bring in two perimeter veterans as their starting safety guards, Marcus Mayer and Tyron Matthews, rather than trust Gard- Johnson to handle both positions. Full-time basis.
The Saints forwards have been above average in drafting and developing defensive backs over the past decade. Marcus Williams, Mason Lattimore, Vaughan Bell, CJ Gardner Johnson, PJ Williams, Paulson Adebo… In addition to the future Defensive Rookie of the Year Outside of Lattimore, none of those players were drafted in the first round. If there’s one position I tend to doubt about the benefits of the Saints’ scouting department, it’s defensive back. If the Saints didn’t think Gardner Johnson could be a full-time safety, it’s absolutely possible they’d be wrong, but smart money says they’re not.
Essentially, moving Gardner-Johnson full-time to either safety seems like a situation where you can take the game’s top 5 corners and turn him into a top 15 strong safety. I don’t know how the rest of the Hawks formed, so maybe it’s an improvement for the team, but I definitely think his bottom line would be much lower if he switched to a full-time safety.
5 – Is there any information about him off the field? I think there is.
He’s great with the media, and he’s great with fans. Eagles fans will love him. I can think of two things worth passing on that Eagles fans might not know. First, he repeatedly “changed” his name, or rather, the name he wanted to be called. He was “Chancey Gardner-Johnson,” “CJ Gardner-Johnson,” and most recently, “Ceedy Deuce.”
“Ceedy Deuce” brings up another point I have to make. He’s not a bad rapper, and he usually does so under the name “Ceedy Deuce.”
BLG’s point of view: Chris did raise an interesting point about how the Saints moved CJGJ to safety and chose not to. But the Eagles didn’t put him in a full-time free safety role. At least, I don’t think they will. CJGJ could line up at a number of different positions, which is nothing like how the Eagles used to use Malcolm Jenkins. I do think there may be a learning curve to consider, especially since CJGJ doesn’t have a ton of time to get used to a new defense. But the low cost of acquiring him makes it easy for the Eagles to take his chances. It’s not unreasonable to bet on his talent to win. Methinks CJGJ will be an interesting player.