Did the New York Giants find their answer at CB2 in week 17?

New York Giants, Julian Love
Jan 3, 2021; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants free safety Julian Love (20) breaks up a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (19) in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants started the 2020 season with Corey Ballentine as their second corner alongside James Bradberry, who they signed during the off-season on a three-year deal. Bradberry ended up becoming a Pro Bowl level corner, who has dominated on a weekly basis for the Giants since exchanging his light blue jersey for a dark blue one.

However, defensive coordinator Patrick Graham still had a major problem opposite Bradberry, as he moved on from Ballentine after just one week. Ballentine earned 92% of defensive snaps in week one against Pittsburgh, and that number jumped to 45% in week two and fell to a measly 3% in week three. After that week three loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the Giants barely used him at all, designating him to practice squad duties. They eventually cut him in week nine, and he latched on with the New York Jets.

After the Ballantine experiment failed, Graham moved onto Ryan Lewis, a former undrafted free agent who originally signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2018. He played in just five games this season following the replacement of Corey, but an injury derailed his campaign and once again created motion at CB2. Luckily, general manager Dave Gettleman allocated a seventh-round pick from 2021 for former third-round pick Isaac Yiadom, who made his way over from the Denver Broncos just before the regular season began.

Isaac really took hold in week eight, after Lewis picked up an injury. He had some ups and downs, with a season-high 77.2 coverage grade, per PFF against the Arizona Cardinals in week 14. However, his inconsistencies posed a significant problem, and after giving up two touchdowns in consecutive weeks against Cleveland and Baltimore, coordinator Graham elected to make another change. This is when second-year player Julian love finally earned the opportunity to test his talents at corner, his natural position.

Love was a fantastic corner at Notre Dame during his college years but made the transition to safety with the Giants in 2019 under James Bettcher. It took until week 17 of the second season to finally play the majority of reps as the number two corner. He finished with a 65.8 overall coverage grade, allowing 51 yards on four catches, but a majority came in the second half with Dallas trying to take a pass-centric road to victory.

The success Love enjoyed against Dallas poses a serious question, should he be considered as an option opposite Bradberry in 2021?

Realistically, the sample size is too small to guarantee Love the position moving forward, but he has the skillset and fundamentals down from his years at Notre Dame. I trust him more than Yiadom or any other practice squad players the Giants could possibly muster unless they allocate a solid draft choice toward upgrading the position.

The best-case scenario would be to find a solid corner who can compete with Love for the starting spot. It was encouraging to see him return to his natural state, and he looked like a good fit at the position. He understands Graham’s scheme well at this point, so the transition was seamless, and the hiccups were few and far between.

One thing he does have to work on is catching the football, as he dropped an interception while covering Amari Cooper on an out route in the second half. These are all things that can be worked on, but he has the natural instincts to be an adequate boundary corner.

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