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Eagles All-22 Film Review: Birds must keep at least one of C.J. Gardner-Johnson or Marcus Epps

Philadelphia can’t lose both of their starting safeties.

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Before the start of NFL Free Agency, I will attempt to break down as many of the Eagles’ free agents as possible. Each article will include stats, the player’s strengths and weaknesses, and my overall thoughts on whether the player should be re-signed or not. All rankings only include players with at least 20% of the snaps this year. All statistics are via Pro Football Focus unless mentioned otherwise!

PREVIOUSLY: Javon Hargrave review | James Bradberry review | TJ Edwards review | Fletcher Cox Review

With NFL free agency about to begin, I thought I would do something a little different with this one and look at both Marcus Epps and C.J Gardner-Johnson. I’ll do an overview of the statistics before doing a quick summary of each player then look at what I think we should do at the end.


Honestly, I think using stats to evaluate safety play is pretty impossible. It is interesting to look at, and I find it interesting that PFF does not rank CGJ or Marcus Epps very highly, but realistically I do not believe they were anywhere near as bad as the PFF grades make them out to be. What is interesting though, is that PFF does really like Reed Blankenship. So you can’t just accuse them of not ranking players in this system highly. I think the stat that stands out the most is Marcus Epps' number of snaps. He basically never came off the field. Remember that availability is a talent.



+ He is a tone-setter on defense. Very clearly a leader of the team and can bring attitude to a defense when it needs it. You can’t really measure this by stats or film but you get a feeling watching games that he could do something to shift the momentum

+ Not afraid to come into the box and help out in run defense, whether as a slot corner or a safety

+ Finds the ball in the air and can make a play on it. 6 Interceptions last year cannot be understated

+ Has cornerback skills due to his time playing there with the Saints. Not many safeties will come down and press a wide receiver

+ A very versatile defender. Can play the slot, come into the box, play as the single-high safety, or as a split-safety.

+ Adjusted to the Eagles’ defensive scheme very quickly.


- Will not come down into the box and shed blocks consistently. Just not his game

- He can get beat in man coverage as a slot defender quite consistently by good receivers. I think he’s better as a safety who can cover the slot if needed

- Loves to hit hard but it does mean he misses a few too many tackles in the open field. This was an issue at the start of the year.

Marcus Epps


+ Really good as a run defender when he comes into the box late.

+ Excellent as a split-safety and reading deep over/crossing routes. He has an excellent understanding of the Eagles’ scheme that they ran under Jonathan Gannon

+ Good tackler in the open field too, not just in run defense

+ Has really improved his game over the past few years. This was his first year as a full-time starter.

+ Played nearly every snap on a historically good pass defense in the regular season. That has to count for something.


- Is not a player you want in man coverage that often... (especially in the SB against Travis Kelce. Thanks Jonathan Gannon).

- Limited in terms of position versatility. He’s not really a single-high safety or someone who can cover the slot on a consistent basis.

- Is pretty aggressive in coverage, especially as a zone defender, which means he can be targeted


This is a sad one for me. I really like both players. I wrote about Marcus Epps last year and he has basically become exactly what I thought he would be. He’s a good starting safety who I think is underrated by a lot of the fan base. CGJ is a little bit more boom-bust as a player, but everyone wants a player like CGJ. He may not be ‘elite’ in my opinion, but he is a very good player. He is the tone-setter for the defense. The player you can count on to make a big play. He is the type of defender that can change the momentum of a game. Epps is a good player and a personal favorite of mine, but he simply doesn’t have that game-changing ability. Not many players on the back end do.

In terms of money, Spotrac has CGJ valued at 5 years $66m which ranks 10th amongst current safeties. That seems about right when you consider Marcus Williams signed a 5 year $70m contract last off-season. What might help out the Eagles is the fact that this is a strong safety class (of FA’s) and CGJ is not the only good safety out there. I know it’s a lot of money, but I would love CGJ back, although I do think it’s fair to have concerns when you start getting past the $12m a year range because he is probably a tier below the elite safeties in the league.

Spotrac has not valued Marcus Epps yet, so I am not sure what type of contract he will get but PFF has valued him at 2 years $13m. I would imagine he will want a longer contract with more guarantees but if he has to settle for a short-term contract, I think the Eagles should absolutely bring him back. The Eagles will be competing next year and keeping a solid starter seems to make a lot of sense to me, especially if he does not cost a lot.

In a perfect world, I would splash the cash on CGJ and have him start next to Blankenship next year. But if a bidding war pushes him up too much, I would absolutely settle for Epps as a plan B. Re-signing Epps shouldn’t dissuade the Eagles from adding another safety, either via FA or the draft.

Personally, I would be a little worried if the Eagles do not bring back either of them and lose James Bradberry and maybe even Darius Slay this year. I think they need to bring back 1 of either Epps or CGJ.

Would I re-sign = YES. At least one of them.


Should the Eagles re-sign CJGJ?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    (170 votes)
  • 23%
    (51 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now


Should the Eagles re-sign Marcus Epps?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    (158 votes)
  • 28%
    (63 votes)
221 votes total Vote Now

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