Saints News | New Orleans Saints |

C.J. Gardner-Johnson having standout second season for New Orleans Saints

'He's playing at a high level'

One hand was all C.J. Gardner-Johnson needed.

One hand to take down San Francisco quarterback Nick Mullens – 6-foot-1, 210-pound Nick Mullens – for a 6-yard loss in the New Orleans Saints' 27-13 victory Nov. 15.

"One finger," Gardner-Johnson said, with a smile.

He's probably right, because he has been right about a lot of things lately. And that has made the Saints' defense be as right as any in the NFL the last several weeks, which has helped New Orleans to climb to No. 1 in the league (284.9 yards per game allowed) entering Sunday's game against Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Gardner-Johnson is a skilled man, and many of them have been on display in his second season while he has registered 53 tackles, four tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, an interception, seven passes defensed and the sack.

"He's playing at a high level," Saints Coach Sean Payton said of the second-year defensive back. "I thought he has gotten better and better this year. He's rushing, he's taking it away, he's an important part of what we're doing defensively. So I'm pleased with the progress he's made."

It's right along the lines of what New Orleans expected from CJGJ when it picked him in the fourth round (No. 105 overall) last year.

"In reality, when you look at the whole defense schematically, everybody is playing a specific role," Gardner-Johnson said. "Everybody is doing what they do best. I feel like the past couple of weeks – you've noticed it – everybody is doing their job. Everybody is focusing on what they can handle, not controlling all this other stuff."

CJGJ (also "Ceedy Duce") is focused, and controlling.

He had an interception and two passes defensed in Denver. Against Atlanta, it was four tackles and two passes defensed, and he touched up San Francisco for a sack, eight tackles and a pass defensed.

Successfully, he has sprung off a productive rookie season (49 tackles, six tackles for loss, an interception, four quarterback hits, eight passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last year).

This year, exclusively playing nickel, he has made his presence felt as a pass rusher off the edge.

"Nobody can stop me," he said, explaining his mind-set. "I feel like, I'm best. You're talking about coming off the edge, I don't know what you're talking about. I just play football.

"So whatever (defensive coordinator Dennis Allen) calls, Chauncey is going to go 100 percent. Ceedy Duce is going to go 100, or whatever y'all want to call me. I'm a gutsy player, do what I've got to do, and I don't get caught in too many bad positions because I'm not worried about teams making plays on me. I'm just worried about what I'm supposed to do.

"If I've got to come off that edge, I promise nobody is going to get off that edge. If my coach says go cover this guy, nobody's going to catch that ball. I feel like when they tell me to do something, I just trigger a whole different focused mind-set, if that makes sense."

It appears to be a mind-set that's been adopted by the entire defense and especially the secondary, which took some early lumps but in the last eight games, has helped the defense allow less than 250 passing yards six times.

"We feel like we're the best secondary in the league, and it's showing every week," CJGJ said. "We feel like we've got the best defense in the league. We're not worried about these numbers. We're just ready to go out there, get that ball, do our job and go play football."


Related Content