The versatile and soft-spoken (lol) defensive back from Florida had his breakout season for the Saints this year as he easily should have made the Pro Bowl. Gardner-Johnson managed to snag three interceptions on the year, up from just having one in 2020, and also recorded 2 sacks and 46 total tackles, all this despite playing in just 12 games as opposed to 15 in 2020. His season highlight was intercepting Tom Brady then smiling in the seven-time champion’s face on Sunday Night Football.
▶️ Former Florida #Gators DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson of the #Saints with a great interception of Tom Brady on Sunday night to seal the game. pic.twitter.com/BXM7WhZGle— OnlyGators.com: Florida Gators news (@onlygators) December 20, 2021
Gardner-Johnson’s versatility allowed him to line up at both corner and safety this year, something that makes him a very valuable addition to the Saints defense. He has also emerged as one of the better trash talkers in the NFL, something that will only become more prevalent as he gains more and more confidence on the field. Playing a full 17 game season at this level should land Gardner-Johnson considerable support to make the Pro Bowl next season.
The switch from #12 to #1 in the offseason was appropriate for Marquez Callaway, as he was undoubtedly the Saints #1 receiver this year. Filling in for an injured Michael Thomas, Callaway stepped up and proved that he is a legit NFL receiver. There aren’t many undrafted players that lead their teams in all major receiving stats in the second year, but Callaway managed to do just that in 2021. Callaway’s numbers improved from a 21 catch 213 yard 0 touchdown season in 2020 to a 46 catch 698 yard 6 touchdown season in 2021.
He was the star of the preseason, but wound up getting off to a slow start at the beginning of the regular season. Callaway recorded just 63 yards and 0 TDs in his first three games as a #1 WR, but that changed in Weeks 4 and 5, when the Tennessee product racked up 159 yards and 2 scores. Callaway was consistent over the rest of the season, and proved that he will be a great compliment to Michael Thomas when the All-Pro is able to get back on the field.
The fourth-year defensive end had by far his best season in his career at just the right time. Having to replace Trey Hendrickson and his 13.5 half sacks from a year ago, Davenport managed to register a career high 9 sacks in just 11 games in 2021. Injuries were a problem for Davenport this year, but when healthy his production more than made up for it. On top of the 9 sacks, Davenport also forced 3 fumbles, two of which came against the Falcons. Davenport looked like a disappointment during his first three season, especially given that the Saints gave up a first-round pick to move up and draft him 14th overall. His 2021 season has turned that disappointment into eagerness to see if Davenport can take that next step towards becoming one of the NFL’s top pass rushers in 2022.
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