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GMoney2600
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Baton Rouge
Member since Oct 2005
8592 posts
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Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
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When the New Orleans Saints drafted Florida safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the fourth round on Saturday (April 27), my initial thought was that he would provide insurance for Vonn Bell, who is entering the final year of his contract.

After watching seven of Gardner-Johnson’s games, five from 2018 and two from 2017, I think it’s more accurate to say the Saints pursued him for his versatility.

Gardner-Johnson primarily played nickel for the Gators in 2018, but he didn’t just cover slot receivers. He blitzed at a high rate for a defensive back, and although he was rarely successful as a blitzer, the speed he demonstrated is a trait the Saints should be able to develop.

In 2017, Gardner-Johnson seemed to mix time as a deep safety and a box safety, so it’s tough to project where the Saints expect him to play. After the draft, General Manager Mickey Loomis declined to explain the vision for each pick, and Gardner-Johnson is a player who could fill various roles for the Saints based on what he did at Florida.

The first thing that shows up on tape is Gardner-Johnson’s speed. Whether he’s in coverage, blitzing or pursuing a running back, he flies around the field. His speed is even more apparent with the ball in his hands, which explains how he averaged 31.8 yards per interception return, including two touchdowns. The Saints have sought defensive players who can make game-changing plays, and Gardner-Johnson fits the description.

His coverage skills are impressive but far from perfect. In 2018, he typically played off the line of scrimmage, and although he has the speed to close the gap, he sometimes struggled to diagnose routes.

He also has some issues diagnosing run and pass plays and was too often late to help on run plays while running downfield in coverage.

Overall, Gardner-Johnson has enough skills to show why the Saints coveted him, but he also has enough flaws to indicate why he slipped into the fourth round.

The best play I saw was Gardner-Johnson’s first interception against Michigan in the 2018 Peach Bowl. On the play, he lined up as a nickel, but he showed free safety skills to make the pick. He hands off coverage of his man to two other defensive backs, but he doesn’t immediately turn around as he tries to fool the quarterback. When Gardner-Johnson turns around, he sprints to help the outside cornerback covering a post and snatches the interception.

Later in the game, Gardner-Johnson makes another interception off a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, showing good instincts to leave his zone and make the play.

The speed and ball skills show an ability for him to be a deep safety in the NFL. He made some impressive open-field tackles on quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, but he needs to wrap up better, as he occasionally dives low instead of making a sure tackle. His speed also leads to some over-pursuit, but his strength helps him avoid blocks while he attacks a ball carrier. He might not always be on time, but his 129 tackles the past two seasons show he has a nose for the ball.

As a blitzer, Gardner-Johnson can be lethal when unblocked, but he needs to be stronger if he’s going to accomplish anything against NFL offensive linemen or tight ends.

Because he primarily gave receivers a cushion, it was hard to tell how he’d do in press coverage, but he’s physical at the top of routes, something that could result in penalties but is useful if he gets away with it. His footwork helps him mirror receivers when they break any direction on a route, and for the most part, he does a good job keeping his eyes in the backfield.

Realistically, Gardner-Johnson could eventually play nickel, strong safety or free safety for the Saints, but Bell arrived in 2016 with a similar scouting report. The Saints ultimately realized Bell could thrive as a strong safety, where he’d play a lot in run support and blitz occasionally.

This could eventually be the same role Gardner-Johnson fills, but I suspect the Saints will work him at both safety spots in training camp. Although his coverage skills are fine, I think the Saints probably trust Patrick Robinson and P.J. Williams more in the slot right now.

Saints coaches will have plenty to work on with Gardner-Johnson, but he has the raw talent to eventually develop into a starter.


Ryan3232
LSU Fan
Valet driver for TD staff
Member since Dec 2008
18925 posts

re: Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
He might be Vonn Bell’s replacement if we dont resign him. Itll surely depend on how he plays. I was ecstatic when we picked him. I remember him very well at Florida. Reminds me of Kenny Vaccaro.


Lsujacket66
Member since Dec 2010
2937 posts

re: Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
I love the versatility to be able to use him in many positions and fill in if someone gets hurt


Ryan3232
LSU Fan
Valet driver for TD staff
Member since Dec 2008
18925 posts

re: Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
With PRob and PJ, we are good at nickelback for this year, but CGJ CAN play that position, but I think he is better at SS in the NFL. I think he could cover slots and TE’s and play the box. I’m still in shock he slid to the 4th round. I hope it isnt indicative of his future. We shall see.


Tiger Phanatick
LSU Fan
Shreveport
Member since Jun 2008
3988 posts

re: Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
Im a die hard college fan. I have followed SEC mostly. trust me Florida products aren't like ours. They have the talent especially in Defense and Athletes to match anyone because Florida breeds that, but that team and its culture is suspect. They have a lot of bad characters. After watching this young man I don't feel he is one of those guys. He seems like a great young man.

But Florida is losing players now through off the field issues. Maybe scouts and front offices are leary of that. Similar to Gerald Willis. He was booted from Florida.


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Finger Truck
Member since Aug 2018
384 posts

re: Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
The original Chauncy Gardiner



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SpartyGator
Minnesota Fan
Minneapolis, MN
Member since Oct 2011
52937 posts

re: Saints’ new safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s versatility stands out on film
I think he will have a solid career there.


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