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Eagles Film Review: How Chauncey Gardner-Johnson fits in Philly

Projecting the transition to safety and more.

Miami Dolphins v New Orleans Saints Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

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.

+ 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.

+ Has really good instincts in zone coverage. Showed the ability to read a quarterback’s eyes and drive forward on the ball quickly.

+ 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.

+ Played a fair bit of safety at the college level. Showed the ability to play in two-high coverages and read the quarterback.

+ 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.

+ 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.

+ 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.

+ 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.

- The physicality is outstanding, but he does go too far at times and will give up penalties.

- Can be grabby in coverage as he hates being beaten. This will lead to a few penalties.

- 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.

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.

This clip below is exactly what I think CGJ will excel in.

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.

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.

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