The 2019 New York Giants’ season is not going to be remembered in the fondest of lights; it will cement itself as yet another embarrassing debacle that this fanbase has become all too accustomed to experiencing in recent years. With this “failure” of a season lingering in the hearts of Giants’ Nation, and radiating from their televisions, fans continue to look towards the future and hope that the young assets develop, so 2020 can be a brighter year.
Experience tends to breed competency and confidence for those who possess the capability, but acquiring experience takes repetition and that is what Julian Love received on Sunday against the Chicago Bears. For the first time this year, Love saw significant snaps on the defensive side of the ball. Love, a fourth-round rookie defensive back out of Notre Dame, provides versatility to this much-maligned defense. On Sunday, he played 20 snaps in the box, six at slot corner, one at outside corner, and 14 at free safety, for a total of 41 defensive snaps.
According to Pro Football Focus, Love graded third in overall defense for the Giants behind David Mayo and his rookie counterpart in the secondary, DeAndre Baker. Love recorded his first career interception in the contest, while almost coming away with a second, but that wasn’t all he showed; Love also displayed hustle and purpose when on the field, which should be a requirement for all players on every snap, but the Giants’ fans know that’s not always the case. In the clip below, you won’t see Love until Allen Robinson (12) makes the catch (Love will be at the bottom of the screen).
The Giants bring a nickel blitz on this play and Love carries his receiver all the way up the seam, but Robinson, ran a deep post to a vacated area due to the five-man pressure, the seam route, and Ogletree biting on the underneath route. Second-year corner Sam Beal gives Robinson the clean inside release and is beaten on the post, which leaves Love with two Bears: Robinson and a now blocking Javon Wims (83). What I love about Love on this play (HA! alliteration) is the angle, adjustments, and awareness he displays. This play should have been an easy touchdown for the Bears, but Love’s determination halted that.
Above is a play that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, and it’s ostensibly insignificant, but I want to highlight it for this reason: the angle on the post. Bears come out in 11 personnel, single back play-action pitch rollout to the boundary, with a corner route from the outside receiver Tayler Gabriel (18) to the boundary and a three-level read with Ben Braunecker (82) in the flat after a chip release, Allen Robinson on the short crosser, and Anthony Miller (17) on the post overtop. Love is the deep centerfield safety in this MOFC (middle of field close) defense and he reads the play-action and sees the rollout while knowing Gabriel is locked up with Jenkins and Trubisky is being pressured. Love shows an understanding of the route combination and the context of everything that is going on with this play, so he angles himself into a position on the top of Miller’s route to where he would have intersected with Miller at the numbers.
Here’s a screenshot of the play above. You can see Love closing in on Miller, while Beal is not in phase and Ogletree is behind as well. I like this play from Love because if Trubisky, who is under pressure and is a marginal quarterback at best, saw the 4.5 yards of separation that Miller had on Beal then he could have made the perilous throw, which would have been right to Love because of his understanding of the route combination, the context, and the angle to meet Miller at the numbers. It’s just a small observation I made while watching the film, but an observation I hope to see come to fruition throughout the rest of the season.
A first-and-10 play in the final two minutes of the first half is the situation above where Love recorded his lone tackle. The Giants surrender their A-gaps because they expected a pass in this situation. Lawrence constricts the A-gap which prompts Peppers to go to the B-Gap and leaves a void at the second level, especially since Ogletree was blocked. Both Love and Bethea come screaming down as the unblocked defenders to make the tackle. Love comes from an outside angle to hit Tarik Cohen on the side of his legs.
I do feel Love can work on squaring up a bit more and not leaving his feet to make this tackle on Cohen. Love’s knees hit the deck before he makes contact with Cohen as an unblocked defender and I feel that could cause a lot of problems in the future if this is a trend. But judging by his college film, it’s not a trend. I feel his mechanics have to be better than this when it comes to tackling in space, especially as an alley defender on this defense.
Here, Love handles a tough situation solidly. Now, Jabrill Peppers is currently by far the best player, that’s not a defensive lineman, on this defense, and I only mention this fact because we have seen Peppers in similar situations and he is much more decisive with his eyes than Love was on this play, which is understandable. Love is in the box and the Bears run a sprint draw right towards him and Love hesitates to attack downhill, possibly because he was in man coverage on Braunecker and he thought the tight end was releasing into the flat, but either way there was a hesitation.
I’m nitpicking, and I do feel Love handled the situation well once he realized it was the sprint draw, but I wanted to acknowledge this hesitation, especially since Peppers may not play Sunday and Love may be in the box more. I’m sure opposing offensive coordinators will see Love, 195 pounds, in the box and attack him with running concepts, even in non-running situations. Peppers is built for that role, and I question Love’s ability in the same role, although I do feel he is an intriguing and solid rookie. Playing in the box may be more fitting for Peppers and Bucannon, but why not at least give Love a shot.
Although, as you can see above, there’ are going to be growing pains with these youngsters. You can see that Love is visibly confused on his assignment once Cordarrelle Patterson (84) motions to the field. David Mayo and Alec Ogletree are barking orders at Love who is out of position on this play. Nothing egregious ends up happening on the play, but cohesiveness has been the biggest issue with this defense. There have been tons of miscommunication and blown assignments, partly because of the young players on the squad, but it’s been an issue and understanding the playbook, situational football, and the different types of coverage must be a priority for Baker, Beal, Corey Ballentine, and of course Love.
It was a solid first game of significant snaps for Julian Love. He wasn’t tested much and he showed a high football IQ when it comes to the angles he utilized to cut off runners and put himself in advantageous situations when he read the route combinations correctly. It’s a small sample size, but I am excited to watch more film on Love as his reps increase.