The New York Giants need an improvement in the secondary if they want to win – that’s practically a fact going into the 2020 season. There’s a number of things that could be changed, from altering the personnel to changing schemes to more player-friendly ones, to improving the defensive line to allow the corners and safeties to spend less time in coverage. Personnel, however, will almost certainly be part of the team’s success or failure regardless of what other changes are made.
Fortunately, the Giants seem to have at least one promising and versatile young player on their hands, who entered the 2019 season late but made an impact despite the poor results overall for the team.
This is of course, former Notre Dame corner and safety Julian Love. Love entered the league playing second fiddle to DeAndre Baker, who was the higher draft pick between the two of them and was taken in the first round after the Giants traded up, but Love perhaps had the better start after getting to spend more time on the bench and adjust to the NFL before entering the game for real. Baker, on the other hand, was thrown right into the fire and it showed in his play.
Love will be a competitor going into the position battles of the 2020 season, of course – both at cornerback and at safety, where an aging Antoine Bethea may end up replaced by someone else. Pro Football Focus spoke on Love, and placed him on the list of 2019 rookies most likely to make a jump this season.
At Notre Dame, Love played the vast majority of his snaps at wide cornerback, and he played well there, too, earning a 92.6 coverage grade across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. His transition to the NFL came with a position change, though, as the Giants asked Love to play safety as a rookie. This season, he split his time between playing in the box (176 snaps), slot corner (129 snaps) and even a little bit of free safety (77 snaps). As the table of his snaps by alignment below shows, that was new territory for the rookie.
Love didn’t see significant playing time until Week 12, but he made a good first impression to close out his rookie season by earning an overall grade of 70.5. The versatility to play safety, slot corner and wide corner — like he showed he was able to in college — serves the Giants well as they head into 2020. At the very least, Love showed that he deserves more playing time next season.
The Giants could come into the 2020 season with another revamp at secondary and it looks like Love is set to be a part of that – whether he ends up at corner or primarily safety remains to be seen, but in a season where the Giants have holes at both currently and parted ways with top cornerback Janoris Jenkins towards the end of the year, the fact that Love is able to play at multiple spots seemingly only increases his chances of making it onto the field more consistently in the coming season.