Chauncey Gardner Johnson is the Saints x factor in 2022
By: Jeremy Trottier
The New Orleans Saints have had quite the odd year overall. From mounting COVID-19 cases across the team to set the record for most starters ever used in a season to injuries piling up weekly and almost all their playmakers going down at one point or another. Yet with all of this, the Saints are still in contention for the playoffs with a win this Sunday and a Rams win against the 49ers. This has been the product of many players, however the most notable at this moment is Chauncey Gardner-Johnson. The nickel CB/safety has been an absolute monster on the field this season and arguably has looked the best he ever has in his short NFL career.
In this article, I will be going over three reasons as to why Chauncey is one of the most impactful players on this Saints team. Also, I will be covering why this impact led to the Saints still being an average team this year, despite the piling up of player losses all year.
The thing everyone knows Chauncey for is his trash talk and competitive spirit on the field. If he makes a big play, he will always let you know. If he thinks he is having a good day, he will tell the player he is covering. This is something that really gets into the head of players, and we have seen on numerous occasions where his trash talk led to a fight or verbal altercation. We saw it against the Bears with Javon Wims having an issue with him twice in two separate games, it is also just noticeable on a game-to-game basis where players get fed up with his talking and are not as effective.
Why is this a positive for the Saints? It gets into the head of the opponent and makes them think more about his talking rather than focusing on the game and task at hand. He also draws penalties/ejections in some cases such as with Wims, as they get so annoyed with him that they will start a fight. There is not too much downside to this either as trash talk is not a taunting penalty (at least as of yet) so he can do it without getting penalized.
Big Play Capability
The second major factor that makes Chauncey so valuable to the Saints is his ability to make “the big play” during each game. He has been filling the stat sheets to the fullest extend this season and has one of nearly every single statistic accounted for at his position. So far, prior to week 18, he has accumulated the following (in 11 games played and 10 started):
- 3 interceptions for 45 yards and 6 passes deflected
- 2 sacks, 4 QB hits, 5 pressures
- 42 total tackles (29 solo 13 assisted) and 4 tackles for loss
- 66.3 passer rating when targeted, 171 air yards allowed, and only 1 touchdown allowed
All of his interceptions have come in divisional games this season, picking off Tom Brady twice and Sam Darnold once. The two divisional games the Saints have lost this season were games where Chauncey did not play or missed most of the game while being 3-0 so far in the division with him having a high snap count. Overall, this shows how impactful he can be to the team and its success.
Team & Roster Fit
Finally, one of the best parts about Chauncey on the Saints is how well he fits with the other players on the roster. With Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, and Paulson Adebo locking up the outside corner spots, having a premier slot corner is almost a necessity to complete the secondary, and Chauncey fills that role exceptionally. The other portion is his flexibility to safety, as the Saints safety room could be coming to an end in the near future.
With Marcus Williams on a contract season and potentially becoming a free agent this offseason, the Saints could lose him in favor of paying Jameis Winston instead due to their cap concerns. Even with GM Mickey Loomis, they have a lot of players to pay, and only so much money to utilize. On the other side as well, Malcolm Jenkins has been phenomenal for the Saints, playing relatively well against his opponents, however, he is up there in age, and the Saints will need a future safety eventually. With this, Chauncey’s experience at safety in college will be a boon to the Saints roster as they can shift him there when needed.