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New Orleans Saints DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson heads to injured reserve, creating sizable hole on defense

The versatile defensive playmaker will miss at least three games following a foot injury in Week 9’s matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

New Orleans Saints v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

After sustaining a foot injury in the New Orleans Saints’ loss to the division rival Atlanta Falcons, defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson will be out at least three games after being placed on injured reserve.

Gardner-Johnson was carted off in the second quarter following a tackle on Atlanta’s Russell Gage with an apparent right foot injury. Days later, he posted photos showing love to the New Orleans Pelicans while a walking boot was visible on the same foot.

In his stead, P.J. Williams served as the primary slot corner, rotation with recent addition Bradley Roby. Williams mentioned during his media availability this week that he’ll be ready to reassume the role but expects other versatile DBs to continue to rotate in as well.

“We’ve got a few guys that can play nickel, a few guys that can play safety so I’m pretty sure we’ll be rotating, but yeah, we’ll for sure be ready. I played that position so I know how to play it. I know the defense so definitely going to execute when my number is called.”

The Saints made the announcement they’d moved Gardner-Johnson to injured reserve on Saturday along with a slew of other roster moves.

On the season so far, the former Florida Gator has been credited with 26 total tackles, two for a loss, one sack, and an interception through seven games. But it’s not just about what he produces on the stat sheet. Much like when the team lost LB Kwon Alexander late last season, the energy and leadership Gardner-Johnson provides is just as valuable.

Saints safety J.T. Gray spoke more on the importance of his presence on and off the field.

“He brings a lot of energy, especially on the field. When we make a big play, like the fire person you want to look at a Ceedy Duce out there doing this thing. That gets us hyped to go out there and make more plays. Him not being out there, he is going to be very missed.”

The versatility, energy, and play-making ability of the young safety will be missed indeed across multiple levels of the defense. Along with the standard stat sheet, it doesn’t take much of a deeper dive to see the value of Gardner-Johnson’s play in all elements of the game. He is credited by Pro Football Focus with six total pressures, nine defensive stops and three passes broken up.

On tape you can see his ability to read, diagnose, and attack in the flats, screen game, and run game with great accuracy and tenacity. New Orleans will have to find the charge the teams gets from #22’s play just as imperatively as they’ll have to manufacture his production.

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