Well Eagles fans, on the same day the Eagles surprised me by releasing starting safety Anthony Harris, they decided to surprise me even more by trading for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. You’ve read all about the trade now so let’s just get down to it and watch what he does on the field.
I think the big question a lot of people are thinking are, how will he play as a safety for the Eagles? I will cover that in the strengths/weakness section, assuming he is clearly here to play as a safety!
+ Excellent sticky man coverage traits. Really fluid hips and showed the ability to win in tight man coverage on a Saints team who played a lot of single-high press coverage concepts.
CGJ thread! Fun player to watch. Pretty much exclusively a nickel CB for the Saints and a very good one too... Fluid hips, plays the ball well & has good man coverage traits. pic.twitter.com/VIYmjk2qQL— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ You can see him play in off coverage and cover deep crossing routes, this is something he will do a lot for the Eagles as a deep safety in quarters you are often to ask to match these crossing routes.
You also see him cover the seam from off coverage. This is what I foresee him doing a lot for the Eagles and dropping back into more deep zones as a safety. You can see why the Eagles think he can play a different role when you look at his style/body type. pic.twitter.com/NNf4KeBSzs— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
This in particular is exactly what he will be asked to do at times as an Eagles safety. When in quarters or in some 4 deep coverages with match principles, you will need your safety to carry deep crossing routes exactly like CGJ does here. pic.twitter.com/lTeOx7rXp7— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Has really good instincts in zone coverage. Showed the ability to read a quarterback’s eyes and drive forward on the ball quickly.
He played a very versatile game in college too but I think you saw him in more off coverage/deeper zones whereas as the Saints he played a lot of right man coverage. You can see the ability to read the QBs eyes here too. pic.twitter.com/hhukhnEFWX— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Can easily handle the demands of being an extra man in the box. Physical downhill, can fight off blocks and get to the running back.
He does a fantastic job avoiding traffic here while keeping his eyes on the back and then making an excellent tackle in the backfield. He's lining up over 2 TEs here which is what you'd expect your starting safety to do frequently against 12 personnel. pic.twitter.com/AFtdRgd0cE— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
I wouldn't worry about his ability to play in the box either. This isn't a small generic cover guy. He can take on blocks and play physical downhill. He looks more of a safety on running plays that a typical slot corner. There's a fair few plays similar to this one... pic.twitter.com/cs3rjUP2bC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Played a fair bit of safety at the college level. Showed the ability to play in two-high coverages and read the quarterback.
Now, if you want to see him play some more split-safety and see him read the game from a deeper position... You gotta go back to his college days! He may not have done it in the NFL much but he showed he could read the game as a safety and make plays on the ball, as he did here. pic.twitter.com/GFh6iCFhpr— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Didn’t do it frequently for the Saints, but did occasionally drop into the single-high coverage.
+ Excellent ball skills and is strong when the ball is in the air.
Again, you see the ability to run backwards and player in deeper zones and read the QB while moving extremely well. The ball skills are also very good and he will intercept balls if he gets a chance. This is a top play. pic.twitter.com/Rkber95c9Y— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Really strong well built frame. Looks the ideal body type for the safety/nickel hybrid.
+ Times his blitzes off the edge really well. Can blow up running backs in pass protection too.
Another excellently timed blitz here. Great acting skills too, pretending to not understand the coverage in order to stop the QB from recognizing the blitz off the edge pic.twitter.com/n6fL6jV289— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
Here he blows up the RB in pass protection with ease and sacks the QB. Again, this is not your normal play from most slot corners. He can absolutely play in the box when required and like a lot of the new Eagles acquisitions on defense can be used in a variety of different ways. pic.twitter.com/KRqiANxvRU— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Is extremely aggressive on the field and plays with an edge. Looks like a leader out there and you will see him being extremely vocal (to his own players as well) throughout the game.
You have to enjoy seeing this too. When players seemed confused pre-snap he was not afraid to let them know that it isn't good enough. For a young player on a team with some excellent players on the defense, he strikes you as someone with leadership qualities. pic.twitter.com/7oHC6n96LT— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
The next thing that stands out is the physicality. He plays with the mindset of a 'tough safety' and not your slot corner. He's an effective blitzer and will hit QBs hard when given the chance. You can see the edge and physicality on tape. He times his blitzes really well too. pic.twitter.com/ctPRdRPBJC— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
+ Really good athlete who moves extremely well on the field. You can see the movement ability immediately.
- The Saints didn’t disguise coverage as much as the Eagles did (towards the end of last season). We haven’t seen him do a lot of post-snap rotation.
- Looks a little awkward as a deep safety at times last year and can get moved by quarterback’s eyes.
You don't see him rotate much to center field safety but he didn't play this deep over too well. In his defense, this is a pretty impossible cover considering the route combination and complete lack of pass rush from the Saints but he looked a little uncomfortable back there. pic.twitter.com/nLlUGSaDfS— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
- The physicality is outstanding, but he does go too far at times and will give up penalties.
Any causes for concern from what I saw? We love the physicality and toughness but he will give away penalties. He didn't get called for this but I think he should have. He plays with an edge and when you play like that, you will sometimes cross the line and go slightly too far. pic.twitter.com/ogjGmbq3UY— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
- Can be grabby in coverage as he hates being beaten. This will lead to a few penalties.
Mims gets the better of him here and he resorts to being overly physical past the LOS. You can tell he hates getting beat and will resort to the dark arts... He gets away with a fair few though. He didn't get called for this either! pic.twitter.com/ytjEKsDwKm— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
The physicality can also sometimes cost him in coverage. He gets very tight and if he gets beat is not afraid to grab, pull or even kick out at the WR in order to stop them from getting open. Expect a few penalties from him. pic.twitter.com/n7nkxkVkfi— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) August 30, 2022
- Misses a few too many tackles, often can be over aggressive and will lead to him over committing at times.
Well, this is a fascinating one. Let’s just touch on the player first. CGJ is an excellent player who excelled on a really good Saints defense over the past couple of season. He looks exactly as you hoped coming out of college, can play a number of different roles at a high level and is one of the most aggressive defenders out there. He will bring an edge to the Eagles defense and he is the kind of player I just want to have on my team. I’d play him linebacker, outside corner, deep safety, box safety, whatever. He’s just a good football player who you want and it’s a brilliant move for the Eagles to get an outstanding young player for basically nothing.
Now let’s talk the fit. Firstly, Avonte Maddox is not going to safety. CGJ is going to be the safety. In my opinion, CGJ is best in man coverage in the slot. Everyone knows that We know that safeties in the modern NFL have to play in man coverage, we saw the Eagles struggle to do this last year, especially when they went to more single-high stuff against the Bucs in the playoffs. Harris could not handle Gronk and I expect that CGJ would have done a better job.
Gronk was always going to be a tough matchup and when the Eagles went man then he won a fair few times, here he beats Harris. I was surprised how often the Eagles rushed 5 on this game... It was more aggressive than I thought live. Too often Brady just got it out immediately. pic.twitter.com/XAUApLYzUn— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 19, 2022
CGJ didn’t line up as a split-safety really at all last year, but remember, just because you start as a split-safety doesn’t mean you are going to play cover 2/4. A lot of the time one safety will rotate late into the box either in man coverage in the slot, to cover deep crossing routes or to play as a robber in cover 1.
You can imagine CGJ doing this a lot next year and covering tight ends, big slots or a teams 4th WR. This will give the Eagles a lot of versatility as Harris couldn’t do this at a high level. As an Eagles safety (or any safety in most modern defenses) you will have to have a very versatile skillset and almost be a hybrid safety/corner due to the amount of coverage responsibility that you have. The days of the big physical strong safety are going with the defenses that most teams are currently running.
Eagles All22 Defense thread v. Broncos. Eagles defense is really changing and showing new looks weekly. Cover 1 press man here. I like how the Eagles deal with motion by moving Maddox & leaving Slay outside. Also enjoyed Harris showing presnap C2 then coming down to cover TE. pic.twitter.com/eZFjZFuUHm— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 16, 2021
This clip below is exactly what I think CGJ will excel in.
Final one for this week: the game clinching pick was a rare example of single-high man coverage with Slay following McLaurin. Small sample size but it worked well when they went to it. (Thinking ahead but if the Eagles get the Bucs - more snaps with Slay travelling with Evans?) pic.twitter.com/54bVABzxwM— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) January 4, 2022
I do think he will have to adjust to the Eagles late rotation from deep as this is something we didn’t see him do last year. It will take him a little bit of time to adjust to frequently moving around before the snap and not just lining up over his guy in press man coverage. Stuff like this will take some time to learn. CGJ is a fantastic player but he will certainly be used in different ways for the Eagles than he was for the Saints these past 2 years. He is not going to line-up in press man coverage here against the oppositions slot receiver very often anymore.
Every 3rd down the Eagles defense are doing something different or disguising their coverage. Here Eppls lines up infront of Harris then sprints behind him to play single high. QB doesn't read correctly and Harris nearly picks this off. Check the rush by Sweat and Cox too! pic.twitter.com/hhXm43OKyX— Jonny Page (@JonnyPage9) November 23, 2021
Personally, this feels to me like the type of deal that you just do because the value is too good to pass up and then you figure out the rest later. I think there will be some minor adjustments that CGJ has to make next year and don’t be surprised if he makes a few mistakes or struggles at certain times. But let’s be clear, the Eagles added a young outstanding talent and didn’t have to give up much at all. This was a no-brainer move and the Eagles are better today, than they were just a few days ago.