Eagles internal, external options for replacing Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Things change quickly in the National Football League, but you already know that. A rash of injuries suffered by key contributors and talented role players led some to believe the Philadelphia Eagles were vulnerable. They keep winning. Ultimately, that’s the most important detail, but just look at some of the names here: Brett Toth, Derek Barnett, Jordan Davis, Avonte Maddox, Dallas Goedert, Jaeden Graham, Janarius Robinson, Marlon Tuipulotu, and now, the league leader in interceptions, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

While many of those losses sting, losing C.J. was tough to watch. The victim of a lacerated kidney, his addition on August 30th stabilized a safety position that was one of the biggest question marks entering the current regular season. At the time of his exit in Week 12, he was the NFL’s leader in interceptions.

You almost know what happens next. Knowing that he’ll miss extended time gets the rumor mill churning. It’s almost second nature to ask if vice president/general manager Howie Roseman might pick up the phone and make a few calls. Truthfully, we’d advise against that.

There’s a noticeable drop-off in talent on the depth chart with C.J. being out of the lineup, but Philly does have some talent there. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s discuss some options.

Here are internal and external options/contingency plans at safety for the Eagles with C.J. Gardner-Johnson out of the lineup.

The easiest and quite possibly the smartest option for the Eagles would be to rely on the guys they already have or already know. Here’s a look at what’s currently on the roster and a few guys who are a phone call away.

The guys already on the Eagles’ roster

Here’s something of note. Mario Goodrich and Javelin Guidry are cornerbacks on the practice squad. Can one of those guys be cross-trained and play safety? While you mull that one over, here are the guys on the active roster who would start opposite Marcus Epps.

Reed Blankenship

Reed Blankenship had a nice showing in Week 12. The questions are about whether or not he can keep the momentum going. We’ve long known that he has talent. He may now get the opportunity to prove himself.

K’Von Wallace

The Eagles don’t play a ton of dime coverage, but when they have recently, it’s been Reed, not K’Von Wallace, who was in the lineup. The former Clemson Tiger hasn’t become the player the Eagles hoped he’d be, but he’s continued to get consistent opportunities. Hopefully, he’s a late bloomer.

Andre Chachere

A warrior on special teams, Andre Chachere has proven that he can be good, not great when needed to play. He probably won’t reach Pro Bowl heights, but he isn’t terrible either. He started a game in 2021 but hasn’t played a defensive snap in six games this season. He has played 118 snaps on special teams.

Players the Eagles are already familiar with

The Eagles’ safety position has been one we have talked about all off-season, and it’s seen several facelifts over a few short months. The carousel began turning on March 18, 2022, when they re-signed Anthony Harris to a one-year contract. He was released on August 30th, signed to the practice squad a day later, and released on September 5th.

They also gave Jaquiski Tartt an opportunity. He was signed on June 17th and, like Harris, released on August 30th. Don’t be shocked if the call is made to one of them.

Anthony Harris

Anthony Harris isn’t the perfect option, but he is familiar with Jonathan Gannon’s scheme having worked with him in Minnesota and having started 14 games for Philly in 2021. This season, he appeared in three games for the Denver Broncos before being released. He hasn’t registered a defensive statistic this season.

Jaquiski Tartt

Oftentimes unfairly mentioned for being the guy that dropped an interception in last year’s NFC Championship Game, Jaquiski Tartt’s number is no doubt in Howie Roseman’s cell phone, but after a less than stellar showing during the preseason and being released during Philadelphia’s final roster cuts, there are questions about how much he has left.

Malcolm Jenkins

Clearly not the player he was, former Eagle Malcolm Jenkins says he can still go if needed. He still has the respect of some of the veterans on this team, and he’s almost indestructible physically.

Here he is on a recent airing of John Clark’s Takeoff podcast.

Outside options if the Eagles want to add someone

It seems like December would be too late to add someone who hasn’t been with this team before. However, we just saw the Eagles add Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph less than a month ago, and we trust Dennard Wilson, perhaps the best defensive backs coach in the NFL and the next Eagles defensive coordinator when Jonathan Gannon moves on.

Here are some of the better available options if the Eagles want to add someone external.

Jarrod Wilson

Jarrod Wilson was a teammate of Jaquiski Tartt’s in San Francisco with the 49ers. He’s appeared in 84 career regular-season games with 33 starts, and he’s earned 204 tackles and three interceptions for his trouble.

Trey Marshall

If the Eagles are looking for younger and fresher legs, Trey Marshall (26) is an option. He doesn’t have a ton of game tape (44 games in four seasons), but he also has 50 total tackles on his resume.

Jeff Heath

Some of you may remember Jeff Heath because of his seven-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys from 2013-2019. Some of you probably thought he was already retired, but he’s actually still active and an available free agent. He’s notched over 400 career tackles if you include what he’s done during the postseason. He also owns 11 career regular-season interceptions.

Jahleel Addae

If you’re looking for a veteran presence, this is your guy. Jahleel Addae spent nine games with the Colts in 2021 and has over 121 NFL games of experience on his professional resume. He’s on the wrong side of 30, but he’s a gamer.

Andrew Sendejo

Another former Eagle (though his time here was short), Andrew Sendejo is probably better remembered by Eagles fans for getting run over by LeGarrette Blount in the NFC Championship Game. He isn’t the best option, but he is an option.

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