How Gardner-Johnson played whole game so soon after trade


DETROIT — The Eagles were coy all week when asked how much C.J. Gardner-Johnson would play in his Eagles debut.

The answer was … a lot.

Gardner-Johnson barely left the field in Sunday’s 38-35 win over the Lions, playing 67 of 69 defensive snaps. What’s really impressive is that he did it with just 11 days after he was traded to the Eagles.

What did it take to get ready in that short amount of time?

“I’m a professional,” Gardner-Johnson said. “That’s like you getting switched to another region for broadcasting. It don’t take much. You focus on what you focus on. If it’s your job, you take it seriously. And I take this job seriously. I’m passionate, I love football.”

Not only that, but the 24-year-old is also playing safety for the Eagles after playing most of his snaps at the nickel corner spot during the first three years of his career with the Saints.

Here’s how Gardner-Johnson lined up on his 67 defensive snaps, according to ProFootballFocus:

Free safety: 33

Box: 27

Slot scorer: 7

Did Gardner-Johnson feel natural in his new defense?

“I was starting the whole day, wasn’t I?” he answered. “All right.”

Gardner-Johnson had five tackles, a pass breakup and nearly picked off a pass. He was around the ball, which is one of the big reasons the Eagles traded for him. They wanted a playmaker to pair with Marcus Epps at safety.

We saw a glimpse of playmaking ability from Gardner-Johnson but there are things to clean up too, specifically his tackling. According to PFF, the Eagles had 15 (!) missed tackles in Sunday’s game and Gardner-Johnson was responsible for three. A lot of that is probably just Gardner-Johnson getting used to new tackling angles from a new position at greater depth.

“I gotta get comfortable, work on my tackling,” Gardner-Johnson said. “It’s the first game. But scheme-wise, I love playing with the back end, I love playing with the guys. They’re passionate and they bring a lot of energy to the team.”

Well, Gardner-Johnson brings the energy too.

He was known for his trash talking in New Orleans but he has a certain swagger about him that was evident before his first game with the Eagles.

“I see the energy is real. It’s not fake,” Brandon Graham said. “I love that he’s started showing his personality as soon as he got here. He felt right at home. It’s just cool that he came in being him. He came in here in shape for him to play every play. He made some plays out there and I’m just excited for him to just keep getting better every week and keep learning some of the details that [defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon] wanted him to do. I’m just happy he’s here because he’s helping us.”

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