With the 105th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints selected Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the 4th round. His selection was considered a steal on draft day and 21 NFL games later, those opinions ring more true than ever. CGJ seized every available moment to state his case for a prominent role on a relatively young Saints defensive backfield.
Coming out of college, our friend John Sigler said this about the promising rookie, “He led the SEC in targets when covering the slot (54) yet allowed the lowest passer rating in the conference (45.4), and turned three of his nine career interceptions into defensive touchdowns.” That was big time stuff from a player in what’s considered the toughest conference in college football. His preseason performance set the table for a strong regular season and CGJ did not disappoint.
Early on in 2019, Gardner-Johnson paid his dues on special teams and spot duty in the secondary. Following some injuries and adjustments on defense, CGJ got his first start if the season against the Chicago Bears. He responded with a few splash plays including 2 tackles for loss, 2 passes defended and 1 QB hit on the day, seeing the field for 91% of the defensive snaps and 57% of the special teams snaps. This game famously featured CGJ and fellow DB Eli Apple having a little fun at the expense of diminutive Bears runningback Tariq Cohen. The rookie had arrived and revealed himself to be a talented, hyper aggressive, trash talking, play-making menace to opponents. He’d get the starting nod in 6 of the next 9 games, including the wild-card playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings.
As with most rookies, there were bumps along the way for CGJ, including a blown coverage and missed tackle late in the pivotal battle for the #1 seed against the San Francisco 49ers. There were other moments that forced you to take a moment to remember that Gardner-Johnson was a rookie and sometimes they make mistakes. However, the good far outweighs the bad and his few flaws will be corrected with the experience he’s gained. The raw emotion on Chauncey’s face following the Saints playoff loss is very indicative of what the game means to him and we can expect him to come out and ball even harder in 2020.
The future is very promising for Chauncey Gardner-Johnson!
By The Numbers:
In 16 appearances (including playoffs), Gardner-Johnson totaled 46 tackles, 35 solo, 8 passes defended, 6 tackle for loss, 1 INT, 1 FF and FR, and 4 QB hit. CGJ was solid as a pass rusher; 30 pass rush, 3 QB hurries, 4 QB knockdowns totaling 7 QB pressures. His season AV: 3. Gardner Johnson’s PFF grade: 72.7
He played 546 defensive snaps for 52% and 205 special teams snaps for 44%.