The Detroit Lions made a major move to secure the services of defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and the team hopes it’s a game-changer for their defense in 2023.
Gardner-Johnson brings a lot to the defense as a prolific intercepter of the football, and his ability all over the field matters for a defense a great deal. With the Philadelphia Eagles, Gardner-Johnson fixed plenty of problems and was a key cog in the team’s wheel.
ESPN’s Marcus Spears had an opportunity on NFL Live to explain exactly what the Lions are getting in the player. As he showed with some great stats, Gardner-Johnson quite literally made the difference himself in terms of his play for the team’s defense.
When Gardner-Johnson was on the field, the Eagles were good. When he was off the field, they weren’t the same group.
“No better guy than Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. When he’s on the field, we saw his impact and influence on Philadelphia’s defense when he was there. When he’s on the field, look at the QBR of the opponent (31). Look at the touchdown to interception ratio (10 touchdowns to 14 interceptions) and the yards per-attempt, 5.6. This is one guy. Taking one guy off the field, QBR goes up 20 plus points. You see the touchdown to interception ratio, 12 touchdowns to three interceptions. 8.2 yards per-play. You’re talking about impact for a team that believes they can win early and often during the season and do big things, that’s what the Lions did with this signing,” Spears said in the clip shared by Woodward Sports.
Detroit’s defensive backfield struggled last season, allowing 26 touchdowns and over 245 yards per-game on average. Worse, they allowed a total of 4,179 yards through the air and finished 30th in pass defense.
The additions of Cameron Sutton and Emmanuel Moseley at cornerback and Gardner-Johnson at safety can change the game, however. Simply by putting Gardner-Johnson into the defense, the Lions may have found the biggest secret to improving their back end overall.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson Praises Lions Situation, Fit
What does Gardner-Johnson see in the Lions? In his own words, he believes the team has already established a great culture, and has some solid talent they they have developed the last few years.
Speaking with the media on Monday, March 20, Gardner-Johnson explained that as he has watched the Lions, he has been impressed with what he has seen from the outside, and it’s a good situation for him to be joining.
“Just watching from the outside looking in, a lot of great young talent. I played against it Week 1 last year. Obviously, they have identity already established. It took a couple years to get it going, but being here and seeing it in the front office, you can see it when you see watch it on tape, watch it on TV, watch it on film. I think this place here I (can) call like another home almost. I can say I’m familiar with everybody, comfortable and I’m ready to get going,” Gardner-Johnson told the media.
When he gets to the Lions, Gardner-Johnson believes his experience in some veteran defensive backfields can pay off. Specifically, he believes the team’s mindset has to be consistent on the back end, and that’s something he has learned while playing with tons of big-name talents in the league.
“I’ve played with a lot of veteran secondaries so I kind of understand the task at hand. I think being around Michael Jenkins, Marshawn Lattimore, Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Marcus Epps (helps). Before I got traded, being around Tyrann Mathieu. The standard that you set as a defensive back is something that you got to carry with yourself. It’s got to be the same every day. Tt can’t change and I think the model for the group on the back end is, the game is won and lost by us no matter what. Understanding that I can trust my left corner my right nickel, my left safety, my linebacker. It’s a whole collective effort,” Gardner-Johnson explained.
Not only does Gardner-Johnson bring major ability on his end, he brings the right kind of mindset for the Lions. With his presence alone mentally and physically, the hope is the Lions can take some major steps toward improvement.
C.J. Gardner-Johnson’s Career Stats & Highlights
The Lions have to be very happy to add a player like Gardner-Johnson to the mix thanks not only to his playmaking, but his ability to fit with the team instantly.
Working with Aaron Glenn in New Orleans who was his defensive back coach, Gardner-Johnson put up five interceptions and three sacks, and was a stable force. With the Lions perhaps in need of defensive backs, Gardner-Johnson could be a familiar name to help the team over the hump.
In his career, Gardner-Johnson has posted 228 tackles and 11 interceptions. He was a standout in New Orleans until a 2022 trade that sent him to New Orleans in exchange for a fifth and sixth-round pick in 2024.
Highlights show a hard hitting player who can cover a lot of ground on the back end, something Detroit was missing plenty of during the 2022 season.
Gardner-Johnson is a player that is gritty in the backfield and could have an understanding of the scheme the Lions are running under Glenn. He can also make a difference on a defense alone as this analysis shows.
Advantage Lions as they try to improve their defense in a big way for the 2023 season.