The New York Giants defense has been one of their more successful units over the past few seasons, courtesy of a potent defensive backfield. Arguably their most underrated player during Patrick Graham’s tenure was Notre Dame product, Julian Love.
Love has filled multiple roles since being drafted back in 2019 in the 4th round. The Giants have asked him to play free safety, strong safety, and both cornerback spots. He has done so valiantly, but the 2022 season presents his first opportunity at a starting job with James Bradberry and Jabrill Peppers departing.
Love has enjoyed no fewer than 600 snaps the past two seasons, showcasing great tackling technique and solid coverage grades. He only missed 4.9% of his tackles last year, the best number of his career after missing 6.5% in 2020.
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Changing of the guard for the New York Giants:
To earn a starting job in Wink Martindale‘s defense, you need to be a sure-fire tackler. Love collected 45 total tackles last season with 16 stops. He also generated five pass breakups and an interception. He did give up three touchdowns in coverage but was used significantly across the defense and special teams unit.
Love spent 140 snaps in the box, 211 in the slot, 35 out wide, and 182 at free safety. That type of versatility will allow Martindale to get creative with Xavier McKinney at safety as well, moving him up into the box and shifting Love into the secondary.
Having two versatile pieces will confuse opposing offenses. This is exactly what Patrick Graham tried to do in the past with his heavy zone coverage system. However, the Giants invested diligently to add more pass rush talent, drafting Kayvon Thibodeaux out of Oregon with the 5th overall pick.
A more potent pass rush should help the secondary, particularly reducing the time spent in coverage, which forces mistakes and quicker passes from opposing quarterbacks. However, Love is expected to compete for the starting strong safety role alongside rookie Dane Belton out of Iowa.
Belton is a solid prospect who the Giants drafted in the 4th round this year. With solid straight-line speed and a thumper mentality, Belton could steal reps from Love, especially given his turnover prowess last season, collecting five interceptions.
Given Julian’s experience, though, he has the upper hand at this point in time. At just 24 years old, Love is in the middle of his prime, finally getting the opportunity he’s been waiting for to lock down a starting gig.