CJ Gardner-Johnson Out Indefinitely With Lacerated Kidney

Philadelphia Eagles CB C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Philadelphia Eagles CB C.J. Gardner-Johnson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 12 - Philadephia Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson will be out indefinitely after lacerating his kidney during Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers, according to a report from NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.  

Further reporting from Pelissero notes that Gardner-Johnson's season is not over, and the safety is expected to return this season. 

Philadelphia acquired Gardner-Johnson in a trade with the New Orleans Saints and has served as a major addition to the Eagles secondary this season. Gardner-Johnson currently leads the league in interceptions with six, leads all members of the Eagles secondary in tackles for loss, and was on pace for the second-most passes defended of his career. Philadelphia's -20.5% defensive passing DVOA is second only to the Dallas Cowboys. 

Comments

11 comments, Last at 02 Dec 2022, 11:20am

#1 by Mike B. In Va // Nov 29, 2022 - 11:46am

Drew Bledsoe says "I feel ya. There's not some sixth-rounder on the roster after your job, is there?"

Points: 0

#3 by whocares4 // Nov 29, 2022 - 6:21pm

Honestly, I know CJGJ has a lot of interceptions, but most of them were plays where the QB made a wild mistake or the ball bounced up in the air. He's blown coverages with frustrating regularity (he's benefited from what seems like an improbable amount of WR drops) and he's a liability in the run game. I know Blankenship took a terrible angle on the big Watson TD catch-and-run but... he kinda seems like an upgrade, at least as far as shoring up the run defense. The d-line gets blamed for the bad run defense but it stinks at least in part because Gannon's scheme relies on safeties cleaning up and they've been fielding an undersized safety and a converted CB, two players who can't contribute to the run defense except in the most limited way. Seeing Blankenship make real run tackles (not just hold on for dear life like Epps and CJGJ) felt shocking. I know Blankenship's not bigger than them, but he's a much more natural tackler and hitter. CJGJ loves to throw a shoulder at guys (and bounce off) and gets pushed around nonstop. Blankenship knows how to shed blockers and square up for real tackles, something CJGJ just doesn't do. (Epps tries!) Gannon's scheme needs the secondary to make strong tackles - the undersized safeties combined with the tackle-averse Slay has been a huge problem if not *the* problem in run defense.

Hopefully, getting outrun by Watson is a "welcome to the NFL" moment where Blankenship realizes just how fast the starters are and he doesn't make that mistake again. He was impressive across the board apart from that one *disastrous* play and made a real contribution. I can't see him taking CJGJ's job... but if the run defense suddenly looks better, don't be surprised.

Points: 0

#4 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 29, 2022 - 9:56pm

Ahh, the Lions.

CJGJ loves to throw a shoulder at guys (and bounce off) and gets pushed around nonstop. 

In elementary school, we were told that the Lions tackled like that, and they sucked, so don’t tackle like that.

Points: 0

#5 by whocares4 // Nov 29, 2022 - 10:28pm

He's definitely a safety who tackles like an undersized ball-hawking CB.

Points: 0

#6 by Pat // Nov 30, 2022 - 8:02am

He is a safety, so most interceptions there are going to look like that. It's not so much "wild mistake" as "disguised coverage." Quarters relies a ton of safety communication and CJGJ's been great at it.

It's part of the reason why the "sign Malcolm Jenkins" call is nuts - he doesn't have the range to play what CJ's been playing.

I don't really agree he's busted coverages often - again, he's a quarters weak safety, it's going to be tough to tell what his assignment is pretty much by design. I do totally agree I friggin hate his tendency to just bounce off guys. I mean, dude, you're not *that* small.

Points: 1

#7 by whocares4 // Nov 30, 2022 - 1:54pm

I can't agree. He's been burned repeatedly and almost all of his interceptions have been on overthrows, underthrows, or batted balls. He might have *one* that comes from disguised coverage resulting in a toss into double coverage. I get that you're saying his job is to stand there and take advantage of miscues, but I have a feeling Blankenship can do the same thing. CJGJ was going to lose them a game at some point because he's terrible in the run and only ok in coverage with a tendency to make major mistakes when he made them. Not that an undrafted rookie makes me feel better (Blankenship made a MAJOR mistake on Sunday!) but GJ was a weak link in the secondary without question. Of all the players to lose on defense, he's the least essential. Getting Maddox back at full health is way more essential. 

(The calls for Jenkins are idiotic, naturally. And also I'm curious how you feel about CJGJ constantly barking at opposing players - there's been a few times when it feels obvious that he should've been flagged. It felt like a disaster waiting to happen.)

Points: 0

#8 by whocares4 // Nov 30, 2022 - 2:04pm

Anyway, my point isn't even about his coverage (which is probably *good not great* with meaningful downside) but that he's incapable on contributing the run defense in a system where the secondary needs to contribute meaningfully to the run defense. He wouldn't be as much of a liability in that regard if Epps (who tries his best & sometimes makes a good play!) and Slay weren't already liabilities. 

If you can find a game where CJGJ's consistently shedding blocks, making strong tackles and coming down in support strong to prevent the RB from getting those extra 2 yards, I'll eat my shoe. 

And in 1 game we've already seen Blankenship do those things.

Points: 0

#9 by Pat // Dec 01, 2022 - 12:34pm

I just have no idea what you're discounting about those picks. He's playing a weak safety in quarters. They're going to look like that. First pick, versus Murray - not underthrown, overthrown, or a mistake - CJ just hid the coverage, closed, and picked off the ball in the air. Great play.

Mills diving interception, Rush diving interception: both of those are him playing exactly where he's supposed to, and closing on the ball when thrown. Were they bad throws by the QB and/or bad routes by the receiver? Yes, but so what? Bad throws happen all the time by quarterbacks, because a lot of times they're intentional - you're throwing it up there to give the receiver a chance, but away from a defender. Except CJ's closed hard and made very athletic plays on the ball.

Yes, he had two tip drill interceptions. Those also aren't luck, he was exactly where he was supposed to be bracketing a receiver. Underneath guy closes on the ball or makes a play on it, and he's in position to make a pick.

but that he's incapable on contributing the run defense in a system where the secondary needs to contribute meaningfully to the run defense.

If your secondary needs to contribute meaningfully to your run defense, you're already screwed. Philly's needed the secondary to help out on run defense because their line's been hemorrhaging space. The solution isn't "give up pass defense," it's "fix the line." If teams want to try to run the entire damn game, whatever. It's better than the alternative.

Points: 0

#10 by whocares4 // Dec 01, 2022 - 5:10pm

I don't even know what to say to some of this. Wildly under-and-overthrown balls, tip drills (mechanical errors) make up inarguably 4 of his 6 interceptions. I dare say *any* safety standing in the general vicinity would've made those same plays. I'm not even sure what we're arguing at this point. I never said it was "luck" on his INTs, I said they were unremarkable play. (And compared to Blankenship's sole INT, they were!)

Also, in Gannon's scheme the secondary needs to contribue meaningfully to the run defense. If you think this is a bad idea, I agree! His refusal to play 3 LBs under any circumstances (except his lame-brained 5 man-fronts) is in fact a huge problem if you intend on stopping the run! Which again, he's made clear he doesn't care about doing. I guess we agree on that.

But in this system they're playing, the CBs and safeties are meant to clean up the runs that the missing LB isn't there to make, especially since the LBs are clearly coached to play coverage first. Look at the GB game - they kept using motion to take Edwards out of the box in order to *force* Slay and the safeties to make tackles. Blankenship did a great job at it! Slay actively avoided contact - he's shameful on the one interior TD run where the d-line has done its job & they just need one of 3 players in the area to fill the hole. CJGJ did an ok job but again, he played like a converted CB: trying to run around blocks, not setting the edge, throwing shoulders instead of wrapping up, getting easily shoved out of the way. He doesn't play like a safety, he plays like a CB, and if you think there's no difference between the positions, I'm not sure what to tell you.

Seeing Blankenship makes real tackles like an actual safety was a breath of fresh air. Slice through the traffic, wrap a guy up, shed a block, hit a hole, etc. Now, maybe he'll get targeted and burned in the passing game, that's definitely possible, I have no idea. But I don't know how you can insist with a straight face that having 3 players in the secondary (4 with Scott in) who are active minuses at run defense isn't hurting the run defense - *epecially having two safeties who are bad at it when there's no LB support.* It's just like... what are you even talking about? If your *safeties* need to contribute meaningfully to your run defense, you're already screwed? On what planet do safeties not contribute to run defense? (If you answer is Gannon's planet, I can't argue with that.) 

Fixing the d-line is a nice thought for the offseason (having the worst DEs in the league and a converted LB at the position is something that, yes, needs to be fixed) but their interior line is fine despite your insistence that Fletcher Cox being old is root of all the team's defensive woes. Go watch the GB game again and see how they target their runs at Epps and Slay and tell me that won't be a problem going forward - it's not on the d-line.

Eagles have a good pass defense because they've entirely sacrificed their run-game to get it. You seem ok with that. I think it's a bad idea that obvious downside. I think improving the run defense by improving personnel (Maddox, Blankenship and Davis) will improve the defense overall. I'm not sure losing CJGJ is any kind of loss. We'll see how Blankenship holds up in the passing game this week when the Titan's deep-shot play action will test him. If he's a bust in coverage, then that's what it is.

 

Points: 0

#11 by Pat // Dec 02, 2022 - 11:20am

 

I dare say *any* safety standing in the general vicinity would've made those same plays.

Diving interceptions aren't exactly de rigeur for safeties. If they could catch, they'd be wide receivers. But regardless: again, it's quarters, the biggest difficulty with quarters is that it demands a lot of communication and coordination between the safeties. Your match rules have to match the rest of the team's match rules.

In other words: the fact that he's in the vicinity is the entire point

Eagles have a good pass defense because they've entirely sacrificed their run-game to get it. You seem ok with that.

Of course I am! It's 2022! I spent the previous 4+ years watching Jim Schwartz run a defense that sacrificed the pass game for the run game. Let 'em try to run down the field. Whatever. A run play TD that requires them dominating the line and then a missed tackle is a heck of a lot better than a pass play TD that just required one guy to get beaten.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Cale
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Cale Clinton. Use promo code CALE to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Cale.