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Julian Love figures to have big role in Giants’ secondary — doing something

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Exactly what isn’t easy to pin down

Miami Dolphins v New York Giants
Julian Love closes in on a tackle last season vs. Miami.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Julian Love figures to have a primary role of some sort in the New York Giants’ secondary in 2020. Figuring out what that looks like, especially when the Giants have yet to practice, is another matter.

Let’s take a closer look at Love as we continue profiling the Giants’ 90-man roster.

The basics

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 195 pounds
Age: 22
Position: Defensive back
Experience: 1
Contract: Year 2 of four-year, $3.29 million rookie deal | UFA: 2023

How he got here

After a stellar three-year career at Notre Dame that saw him defend 36 passes over his final two seasons and earn Consensus All-America honors in 2018, the Giants happily selected Love when he fell to the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Remember GM Dave Gettleman saying he was “pacing the floor” hoping Love would still be there as the Giants’ pick at No. 108 drew near?

“We were shocked he was there. We were thrilled, obviously. He was sticking out on our board like a sore thumb,” Gettleman said at the time. “He’s a complete defensive back. He’s got all the movement. He’s got the ability to carry the vertical and he plays the nickel. And he tackles — there’s a crazy concept, tackling.”

Well, the Giants took that “complete defensive back” who was drafted to play the slot, converted him to free safety and used him for a grand total of three defensive snaps in the season’s first 10 games. Maybe he was ready and not playing him at all was a mistake, or maybe he really wasn’t ready.

When he finally did get to play in the final six games — mostly at strong safety after Jabrill Peppers suffered a season-ending injury — he excelled.

Over the final six games, Love played 406 defensive snaps, including all of the snaps in the season’s final three games. He ended up playing 176 snaps in the box, 129 in the slot and only 77 at deep safety. Love gave up 19 completions in 29 targets (65.5 percent) with a passer rating against of 81.1. He had 5 tackles for loss in 37 overall tackles.

2020 outlook

Peppers should be healthy, so full-time duties as a box safety are likely out. Besides, that’s probably not a ticket to longevity for a guy who weighs 195 pounds. Xavier McKinney was drafted in Round 2, so the ostensible free safety role is also likely out.

Darnay Holmes was drafted in Round 4, and could get a long look for snaps as a slot cornerback. If DeAndre Baker isn’t playing at the start of the season, Sam Beal and Corey Ballentine probably have dibs on taking the snaps Baker forfeits.

Love? He will probably end up doing a little bit of everything. He could win the job in the slot outright. He could be a Baker fill in. More likely, he is probably on the field a lot along with Peppers and McKinney in three-safety packages with rotating responsibilities based upon the call.

That makes sense considering both head coach Joe Judge’s constant harping on having versatile players who can be used differently week-to-week based upon game plan, and Love’s cerebral nature and ability to handle multiple assignments in the secondary.

“Our philosophy is going to be to put pressure on the opponent to prepare for multiple things. Within that, we have to have personnel versatility and we have to have flexibility schematically to make sure that whoever we play, we can adjust our game plan to maximize our strengths versus their weaknesses,” Judge said at his introductory press conference. “We’re going to look for the best system to help us week by week.”

Love figures to be a big part of that. Somehow.