Eagles explain why CJGJ signing was about more than just talent

Eagles explain why CJGJ signing was about more than just talent originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ORLANDO, Fla. — The Eagles wouldn’t have signed C.J. Gardner-Johnson if he wasn’t a talented player. They wouldn’t have signed him if he didn’t fit into Vic Fangio’s defense.

But his signing was about more than that too.

The decision to bring Gardner-Johnson back to Philly was one of the moves the Eagles made this offseason in an attempt to recapture their swagger.

“It was important,” general manager Howie Roseman said this week at the NFL’s annual league meetings. “It was important to bring in guys who are all relatively young, as free agents go, and all have tremendous football character. And mentality is actually the word. We want guys with (that) mentality.

“We want guys that reflect the city, that reflect the style that we want to play on offense and defense. So, obviously, you want talent too from these guys but I think that would be accurate to say. We were looking to regain our swagger and mentality back. Obviously, what happened at the end of the year didn’t feel good, wasn’t acceptable for any of us. To get players who can kind of bring that and have that motivation and that mentality (was important).”

The Eagles fell apart at the end of the 2023 season and there’s not just one easy reason why. There can’t be one easy answer when you lose six of your last seven games and get bounced from the first round of the playoffs in what you hoped would be a Super Bowl season.

Maybe swagger just comes from winning. It’s easy to see it then, of course.

But maybe there’s something to the idea of playing with an edge that can help avoid complete disaster. And maybe, just maybe, that was indeed missing from the Eagles in 2023.

Head coach Nick Sirianni didn’t use the word swagger when talking about Gardner-Johnson, who is back in Philly on a three-year deal. He had a different word in mind.

“I think toughness is the word,” Sirianni said on Tuesday morning. “We were looking to add tough pieces. And when you go back and look at Chauncey, the things that he added when he was here in ’22, you saw a guy that was willing to throw his body around and play physically tough and play mentally tough too. There's two pieces of toughness, the physical toughness and the mental toughness.

“Whether he had a good play, whether he had a bad play, he was playing his butt off the next play with amazing effort. And some of the physical plays that he made too. I mean there was a tackle in the NFC Championship Game where he came up and made an awesome open field tackle on (Christian) McCaffrey on the sideline, who we know is not an easy guy to tackle. And he made an unbelievable physical play, got up with excitement.

“I’m really excited about the toughness that Chauncey brings back. And he plays with constant energy and that's contagious. Physical play, it just brings that juice. It's like the alley-oop, right? It's like a big three-pointer. Whatever sport you want to compare it to. The energy that it brings to the sideline and your team and the momentum that it builds. So excited about his toughness that he adds and the excitement he plays with. You know, and looking forward to him adding that to the piece of defense.”

Sirianni didn’t go as far as to admit that was an element missing from the team in 2023, saying there were a lot of things they could have done better.

So maybe not completely missing but perhaps a little off.

“We want to be the toughest team at all times,” Sirianni said. “And at stretches, we've been that in this past three years. And we want to make sure that that's who we are. That's how we're built.”

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