Last week, before facing the Los Angeles Rams' wide receiver duo of Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua, Detroit Lions defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson had a comparison to another team's group of wide receivers.
"This group probably is one of the better groups we done faced all year, besides that Tampa group,” Gardner-Johnson said. “If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that’s a great group. Evans, Godwin, (Russell) Gage, that’s a great group. I played against them for real.”
Gardner-Johnson never minces words and he was taking a clear, if possibly initially unintended, shot at Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield there.
To be entirely fair, the Lions held Mayfield to his season-low in passer rating (56.8) back in Week 6, a 20-6 win for Detroit. His stat line was also close to being a lot better, if not for some missed opportunities.
It's also fair to say Mayfield has had a solid season, and he has been hot lately as the Buccaneers rallied to win the NFC South then followed with a rout of the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round.
Lastly, it's also fair to say Mayfield notices when something negative is said about him by an opposing player. The chip on his shoulder is large.
Slight from C.J. Gardner-Johnson draws response from Baker Mayfield
On Wednesday, Mayfled talked to reporters and Gardner-Johnson's critique was brought up.
"I don't think he’s really watched film, because he mentioned Russell Gage. We love Russell, but Russell hasn’t played a snap all year for us." Mayfield said.
"He must be going off the preseason stuff that the media was talking about," Mayfield said. "But he didn't play our first game, so I'm excited to see him. I think he’s a really good player, he has been for a while, and he’s been an impactful guy on every team he’s been on. So he’s a good player, but yeah, he’s gotta do a little bit more film study."
Gage has missed the entire season after suffering a knee injury in training camp, so Gardner-Johnson including him with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin is odd. Gardner-Johnson, as Mayfield noted, also didn't play in the Week 6 game, still early in his recovery from a torn pectoral in Week 2.
Gardner-Johnson couldn't have known that if the Lions beat the Rams they'd face the Buccaneers in the Divisional Round like they are, and he missed on a simple fact like Gage not playing for them all season. But if he casually intended to get under Mayfield's skin (as can be easy to do) and draw a response, mission accomplished.
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