The Philadelphia Eagles have lost another crucial piece of its secondary. Here’s what the injury to the NFL’s league leader in interceptions means for the immediate future of the Eagles.
Eagles Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has been diagnosed with a lacerated kidney following a 40-33 win against the Green Bay Packers this past Sunday. Johnson was injured in the second quarter while attempting to tackle Packers Wide Receiver Christian Watson in coverage. Gardner-Johnson would be carted off the field with help from the Eagles’ medical staff. Initially, the injured was sighted as a rib injury, with news to follow of its extent. The Eagles have elected, at least for now, to keep Gardner-Johnson on the active roster and off injured reserve.
The 24-year-old playmaker out of Florida leads the NFL in interceptions with six. A steady force in the Eagles’ secondary, Gardner-Johnson was traded to Philadelphia from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for draft picks before the start of the 2022 season. Gardner-Johnson has racked up 60 tackles, and eight passes defended to go along with his six picks on the year.
While the expectation is that the injury won’t cause Gardner-Johnson to land on IR, anything is possible. Former Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz, now with the Arizona Cardinals, had a similar injury occur in 2019. Ertz missed just one game and was back the following week. Eagles fans can look toward recent history, hoping that Gardner-Johnson will be healthy and ready to play relatively quickly.
Coming in to fill CGJ’s role was former Middle Tennessee Safety Reed Blankenship. Blankenship played well in relief of Gardner-Johnson. In total, Blankenship racked up six tackles and had a key interception off Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Blankenship, a UDFA signed by the Eagles in 2022, made the initial 53-man roster and had been used mainly on special teams before the week 12 game against Green Bay. Look for Blankenship to potentially start in place of the injured Gardner-Johnson as an immediate fill-in.
Thinking long-term, and worst-case scenario, if Gardner-Johnson is shut down for the remainder of the season, Philadelphia has a few options in free agency. One of the options for veteran fill-ins in free agency would be former Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints Safety Malcolm Jenkins. Jenkins played for Philadelphia from 2014 to 2019 and has stated that he is “staying in shape” should a team call.
Jenkins is just one possibility in a list that includes former safeties Andrew Sendejo and Jaquiski Tartt. Sendejo and Tartt certainly aren’t strangers to Philly, having played here in the past. Should CGJ’s injury take longer to heal, look for the Eagles brass to bring in talent off the street? The Eagles are no stranger to adding older talent to this roster, having signed free-agent Defensive Tackles Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh within the last three weeks.
The Philadelphia Eagles have faced their fair share of injuries in the 2022 season. Despite having the best record in the NFL, another significant injury will test this team with the loss of its most productive defensive back. Gardner-Johnson looks to recover from this injury and be back before the end of the regular season. In the meantime, it will likely be unproven players patchworking a secondary that has forced plenty of turnovers this season.
Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon will have his work cut out for him trying to tweak his defensive scheme to mesh with such a devastating loss. This Eagles team has faced plenty of adversity already this season, and another injury only adds to this adversity with the loss of Gardner-Johnson.