Very few Saints fans were expecting to see their side pick up two safeties during the 2019 draft, but it proved to be an extremely savvy move with the NFC South side ending the season with an impressive defensive record. At the time, they may also have been looking to the future and although the prospect of losing unrestricted free agent Vonn Bell during the offseason is a daunting one, they now appear to have ample cover to cope with his potential departure. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is one of the players who is likely to step up in 2020, and the 105th overall pick will be hoping to be given the opportunity to continue his development next season. 

CGJ probably wasn’t expecting to be given the chance to represent the Saints last year, however, Bell’s mid-season knee injury offered him an opportunity to deputize, and the 22-year-old made an immediate impact. Having completed his rookie season alongside Saquan Hampton, he stepped up seamlessly and clearly has a bright future ahead of him. Sean Payton can now call upon numerous defensive options, and despite reports that free-agent Chris Banjo, who was only released last summer, could potentially return to Louisiana this summer, fans would arguably prefer to see Gardner-Johnson make the position his own. 

Vonn Bell enjoyed another hugely successful campaign, and helped the Saints reach the playoffs for the third successive season. However, with cash at a premium this summer, big decisions must be made. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will almost certainly be looking for a new home over the coming weeks, with Taysom Hill reported to be the preferred back-up to Drew Brees, whilst Andrus Peat may also be heading elsewhere. However, Bell’s future is unclear, and there are likely to be plenty of potential suitors if he decides to put an end to his four-year stint in New Orleans. He didn’t miss a single game during his first three seasons, and although he isn’t generally viewed as an elite pass defender, his ability to force and recover fumbles will be missed. 

CGJ deputized superbly in 2019, and the Saints will be conscious of the financial restraints going into this year’s draft. They are likely to prioritize other positions, most notably wide receiver, and that could pave the way for the 22-year old to become a regular starter. His ability to cover various defensive positions makes him an incredibly useful asset, however, he would arguably prefer to make the strong safety position his own. He will be hoping to help guide the Saints into the post-season shake-up, and at 5/13 in the American football odds to finish top of the NFC South, plenty is expected of the 2009 Superbowl champions. 

With 49 combined tackles and one interception last season, Gardner-Johnson looked very comfortable when asked to step up. He forced nine incompletions during his brief time on the field, and although Von Bell’s presence will be sorely missed, this future star of the game looks ready to step up and help maintain the Saint’s imperious defensive record next season. 

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