Safety Julian Love, like many players on the youthful New York Giants defense, is in the unique position of being one of the team’s most experienced starters despite only being in the NFL for a few years.
Love, 24, was never a full-time starter during his first three years in New York. That changed once Logan Ryan was released this offseason. Now, he’s a de facto team leader as the defense transitions to a new system under Wink Martindale.
Let’s take a look at the insights Love provided during his media availability on Monday.
Preseason opener at New England
The Giants won their preseason opener against the New England Patriots 23-21 on Thursday. The starters were mostly out of the game by the end of the first quarter, but we still got our first look at rookies like Kayvon Thibodeaux and a standout performance from Darrian Beavers.
“I think we have a lot of evaluation being done, top-down from starters on,” Love said. “I think we got some good feedback on some things to improve on. It’s the initial shock for a lot of young guys on what an NFL game can be.
Pass protection was something of an issue during the game, as the cornerbacks struggled against New England’s back shoulder throws. At first it seemed like Brian Hoyer’s passes were simply underthrown, but a pattern quickly emerged.
“Yeah, that was something I guess we haven’t seen as much until the game,” Love said. “So, of course, you’re going to see some stuff you weren’t expecting maybe, so now we’re learning to play the back shoulder, the ball out in front because that’s the evolution of the game, that’s what these games are for and it’s important that we got those in the game because now guys can build off of that, and young guys can really learn how to play them.”
The Giants’ new defensive coordinator lived up to his penchant for bringing blitz pressure from all over the field on Thursday — meaningless preseason game be damned. Bill Belichick didn’t seem too happy about that, but Love doesn’t think Martindale did anything too extraordinary.
“I know a lot happens between coaches before preseason games, gentleman agreements, or whatever,” Love said. “I thought we were fine, I thought everything we played was very standard in terms of what you want to see young guys getting. So, I’m not sure about all of that stuff but, I thought our plan wasn’t anything exotic on defense.”
So how does Martindale’s aggressive side factor into his play-calling during training camp?
“I think that’s an upstairs thing. I’m sure they tell Wink like ‘hey, you have certain pressures you can run’”, or the amount of pressure they tell him. Like ‘hey, this is your allotted amount.’ But nothing to the players, whatever is called we’re going to play it hard,” Love said.
Now that Love has a starting spot locked down, he can focus more on helping the team’s rookies and new additions develop their game.
“I liked what Dane Belton has shown before he was out for a little bit, I like what Zyon Gilbert has shown, he’s a sneaky athlete, so it’s exciting to see him get more and more. We have a good young group; I think we have some really good players. You saw Darren Evans, D. Evans, he had a solid game, and I want to see more from [Cor’dale] Flott. I’m also forgetting Trent Thompson, he’s been flashing all over the place. He’s a guy who has really been earning his way from the bottom of the bottom to now earning some quality reps for us, I think that’s someone to keep an eye out for sure.
Love also had some praise for rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger, who appears to be the team’s starter heading into the regular season.
“I like Daniel. I think he’s a tough kid. I think he’s been improving more and more each day; a lot has been put on him honestly,” Love said. “Getting that first team job and he’s learning each day. I think for a young guy right now, you want to absorb as much as you can each day, take the hits here and there, the bad and the good plays, but he’s learning, and he’s a good kid. When I’m out there guarding him with the first team and the first teams are going at each other, I’ll tell him this is what you need to do to be better at certain aspects.
“He’s learning to become a more proficient route runner, he’s a big guy, he’s strong, he’s deceivingly strong, and just using his body more. You guys will see moving forward.”