New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman once told the story of pacing nervously as he awaited the team’s pick at No. 108 in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. As the minutes and the picks flew by, Gettleman was hoping Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love would remain there for the Giants.
He did, and the Giants did not hesitate to add Love to a defense they were trying to re-stock.
“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.”
Funny thing is — well, not so funny if you are Love — while the Giants were in a hurry to draft him, neither the Pat Shurmur coaching staff nor the Joe Judge coaching staff has seemed to be in any rush to get Love on the field.
Let’s take a closer look at where Love might fit in a talent-rich Giants’ 2021 secondary as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the team will bring to training camp.
Position: Defensive back
Contract: Year 3 of four-year, $3.219 million contract | 2021 cap hit: $1.042 million
Career to date
Love had a stellar career at Notre Dame as an outside cornerback, but Pat Shurmur-James Bettcher Giants made it clear from the start that they saw Love as an NFL free safety. Perhaps that was because of Love’s 4.54 40-yard dash, only 28th percentile for a cornerback.
Love played only three defensive snaps the first 10 weeks, really only becoming a full-time defensive player at strong safety due to an injury to Jabrill Peppers. Love ended up playing 409 defensive snaps, 40 percent. Love ended the year with a solid 70.5 Pro Football Focus grade and a quality passer rating against of 84.5.
Love had an up-and-down second season, a year which saw him filling a variety of roles for new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. His snap counts were all over the map. Six times he played 60 or more snaps, once he played 17, once he did not play at all. Sandwiched in between 61 and 82 snap games in Weeks 15 and 17 was an 11-snap game in Week 16 vs. the Baltimore Ravens.
Love played everywhere. There were 454 snaps at free safety, 59 as a box safety, 61 as a slot cornerback and 145 late-season snaps as an outside cornerback. In all, he played 721 snaps, 66 percent of the plays during which the defense was on the field.
Thus, he was valuable. Even though he did not have a position to call his own.
Xavier McKinney is healthy entering training camp. Logan Ryan will be a full-time player from the start. Adoree’ Jackson was signed to play opposite James Bradberry at cornerback. Aaron Robinson was drafted to add depth and to compete with Darnay Holmes for snaps in the slot.
So, how will Love get on the field? Sitting here in June, that’s a difficult question to answer. There isn’t a clearly defined position for Love, and there are only so many snaps to go around.
Graham, though, is a creative defensive mind. Love may not play 66 percent of the defensive snaps again, but Graham will find ways to get contributions from him. Also, Love is an excellent depth player considering the number of positions at which he can fill in at least adequately.