With Xavier McKinney sidelined for four weeks and perhaps longer following “sightseeing tour” mishap in Cabo during the bye week, Julian Love will assume the role of defensive signal caller.
“I just have the green dot, I’ll communicate to the defense,” Love said on Tuesday, adding that he has called signals in practice since OTAs. “I’m comfortable with it, I’m used to it – it’s just communicating. It should be fun.”
Love, 24, is in the midst of the best season of his four-year career. He is a full-time starter for the first time after starting only 16 games total over his first three seasons, and also a team captain. Love has played 92 percent (463) of the defensive snaps. With 58 tackles, he is just eight shy of his career high with nine games to play.
GM Joe Schoen expressed interest during the bye week in getting contract extensions done with several of the Giants’ young players. Love, in the final year of his rookie deal, is thought to be one of the players the Giants would like to keep.
“I’ll say this – I love playing here. I really enjoy the people here. It’s been a blast these past few years and I respect the hell out of Schoen and everybody upstairs. So yeah, if something can get done, I’d love to get it done but the bye week was that time to figure things out and be involved in it. Right now, I’m letting them handle it, my agent handle it, and focusing on now this bigger role for me and do my thing.
“That term, ‘Once A Giant, Always A Giant,’ is something that has been appealing. I’ve been around some greats. Zak DeOssie and Eli Manning just to name a couple. It is appealing. I love it here. My family, my wife – we enjoy it here. That’d be something that’s appealing to me, but at the same time you’ve got to do what’s best for you. That’s the line I have to walk.”
Right now, what Love needs to focus on is being the voice of the Giants’ defense. That is a role that what given to McKinney this season by defensive coordinator Wink Martindale.
While Love said he will be “comfortable” calling the defensive signals, he acknowledged the void McKinney’s loss leaves in the defense.
“He’s a rising star in this league, it’s tough to replace. He’s a guy who’s been holding down the deep part of the field for us, is able to do some good things for us to play fundamental football,” Love said. “I think the emphasis has to be on guys just to not let it feel like there’s such a big hole. That’s going to take, honestly, a community of guys right now to step up and fill the roles that he’s been able to play this season and past year.”
Among players who could be asked to fill in are rookie fourth-round pick Dane Belton, Jason Pinnock and Landon Collins. Tony Jefferson, currently on IR with a foot injury, could also be part of the mix if and when he is ready to return.
Love acknowledged that there is, of course a personal side — concern for a friend injured in a foreign country — to the situation.
“It’s tough. Obviously as teammates, as friends it’s something you don’t want to hear but it happens, freak things happen,” Love said. “It’s crazy but we’re going to be resilient and try to find a way going forward to fill a tough void to fill.
“He never had to apologize to us. He just said what it is. He called me and told me what it was, whenever it happened. It’s tough. You can look at it from a team perspective, it’s tough. But I looked at it right away from a personal perspective and made sure he was alright and everything. That’s a scary thing on a trip and you get hurt, you’re injured, but it’s part of life, part of the situation.”