Friday, December 9, 2022

Eagles not giving secrets on Chauncey Gardner-Johnson use, won’t close door on Anthony Harris return

Safety was the primary concern for the Philadelphia Eagles throughout training camp. Outside of Marcus Epps, no one appeared safe to make the roster at the position.

Anthony Harris was as close to a roster lock at safety, yet the Eagles moved on from the veteran after acquiring Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in a trade with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday. A slot cornerback in New Orleans, Gardner-Johnson will move to safety in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s scheme — solidifying a position that is certainly still in flux with a few pieces. 

“The first thing that comes into my mind is dangerous,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said Tuesday. “I think he’s one of these guys, too, that when you have him on your team, I think it’s really — you might not like playing against him, but you’re really glad he’s on your team.”

Gardner-Johnson will be a safety in Philadelphia with Avonte Maddox in the slot, lining up with Epps in the backfield. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 59.2 rating last season targeting Gardner-Johnson, who had a career-high three interceptions. He allowed just two passing touchdowns and had one pass interference penalty when he was the primary defender.

The Eagles won’t be giving anything away with how they’ll use Gardner-Johnson in their defense. That’s for the Detroit Lions — their Week 1 opponent — to figure out. 

“We have a good player in him, there’s no doubt,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “That’s our job as coaches, to have a plan, and we do. I think at this point right now, it doesn’t benefit us to talk about how we’re playing him, where we’re playing him, because we’re in game plan week right now.

“The fact that he didn’t have any snaps here with us is an unknown to Detroit, so we’ll keep it that way. But when we get good players in here, it’s our job to figure out ways to use them. We’ve obviously talked about that at depth, and we look forward to having him in here and letting him contribute.”

Philadelphia released Harris prior to roster cutdowns Tuesday, but won’t rule out a return with the veteran safety. Bringing back Harris could provide valuable depth to a position that has K’Von Wallace, Josiah Scott and Reed Blankenship as the backups. 

“We felt like since there was a possibility that his role had changed from when we had signed him, that’s because we were looking at options, he also deserved to kind of look at options himself,” Roseman said on Harris. “Obviously, you don’t want to close any doors on anyone or anything right now at this time.”

Blankenship was just one of three undrafted players to make the Eagles roster, earning his spot after a strong preseason at safety. Until waivers clear Wednesday, his spot isn’t secure. Still, the Eagles gave a strong indication they aren’t letting him go. 

“I don’t want to put too high expectations on him, but he kind of reminded me of a guy like Quintin Mikell who we had here,” Roseman said. “He has physical tools, but he’s always around the ball, and credit to him and our coaches for putting him in position to make plays. 

“We wanted to recognize that because we had a smaller draft class, we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to make this team.”

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