During his three seasons in the NFL, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has earned a reputation with his play.
And his antics.
At times, Gardner-Johnson is a pest, an instigator. He once got Javon Wims to throw a punch at him during a game, there’s a viral clip of him talking smack in Tom Brady’s face and one of the most famous images of him is Gardner-Johnson stomping the Falcons logo in Atlanta.
“I think he's one of these guys … you might not like playing against him,” head coach Nick Sirianni said, “but you're really glad he's on your team.”
The Eagles on Tuesday pulled off a major trade to acquire the 24-year-old Gardner-Johnson from New Orleans to shore up a safety spot that desperately needed some help. The Eagles made the trade to add talent to their roster, but Mr. Competitive Sirianni doesn’t care about a little trash talking either.
“That trash talking, I know he gets the rap for that, but that's part of his competitiveness,” Sirianni’ said. “And I'd lie if I said I don't trash talk a little bit and I didn't when I played or whatever it is and like that and do it in practice to raise the level of competition, I think that's just all a part of it.”
As general Manager Howie Roseman pointed out, Sirianni lets his players show their personalities.
So the Eagles aren’t worried about how Gardner-Johnson will fit in the locker room.
But what about on the field?
While Gardner-Johnson played some safety in the University of Florida — Roseman was quick to point that out — the majority of his NFL snaps have come at the nickel cornerback position. But the Eagles are calling him a safety and expect him to start at that position next to Marcus Epps.
Earlier this month, as the Birds cross-trained Josiah Scott (a nickel corner) at safety, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said the nickel is “a mirrored position” with safety in some aspects. So it’s not totally unnatural for Gardner-Johnson to change positions in Philly.
“There are some different things that we're able to do where they are interchangeable,” Sirianni explained. “Obviously, when you ask them to play the deep half and when you ask them to play in the box and when you ask them to play the deep third. So, there are some interchangeable parts and some looks that we show that for us as a defense that make us multiple.
“When you give the offense an answer now, like if the offense knows what you're in and what you're doing, it's easier for them to pick you apart when they know exactly what coverage there is to do. A lot of it comes from the disguise, as well, is what I'm getting at, the disguise of how you're trying to show one picture to the offense and play another thing. That's where a lot of those pieces are interchangeable. But like I said, those guys worked their butts off to fit both roles, and we'll do that with a lot of our guys there in the back end.”
Roseman even brought up the versatile role Malcom Jenkins once held with the Eagles under then-defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. We know Gannon values versatility and Gardner-Johnson provides that.
And he’s just a good player. During his three-year career, Gardner-Johnson has 5 interceptions, 161 tackles, 3 sacks, 15 TFLs, 12 QB hits and 28 pass breakups. He’s a playmaker.
Even more than Gardner-Johnson’s trash-talking persona, that’s what came to mind for the Eagles’ head coach on Tuesday.
“Dangerous. Dangerous,” Sirianni repeated. “You have to be careful with him, throwing the ball at him. He's just been around the ball a ton in his career and making plays.”
While Sirianni gave an in-depth answer about how the nickel and safety position can mirror each other, he didn’t want to get into the details of how the Eagles will specifically use Gardner-Johnson in Gannon’s defense.
He wants the Lions to find out on Sept. 11 in Detroit.
“The fact that he didn't have any snaps here with us is an unknown to Detroit, so we'll keep it that way,” Sirianni said. “But when we get good players in here, it's our job to figure out ways to use them.”
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