New York Giants: Who will pick up the slack after Xavier McKinney’s freak injury?

julian love, new york giants
New York Giants safety Julian Love (20) intercepts a pass thrown by Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) in the second half. The Giants defeat the Ravens, 24-20, at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022. Nfl Ny Giants Vs Ravens

The New York Giants were hit with bad news today as starting safety Xavier McKinney announced on Twitter that he suffered a hand injury over the bye week that will keep him sidelined for a few weeks. The freak accident will leave the Giants with a massive hole on defense as McKinney, the defense’s play-caller and captain, will be out for weeks. With Xavier McKinney absent, the Giants will need someone to pick up the slack in the secondary. Julian Love, a fourth-year veteran safety in the midst of contract extension negotiations with the Giants, is a prime candidate to see an increased role in McKinney’s leave.

Julian Love filling picking up the slack on the New York Giants defense

Xavier McKinney’s injury will sideline him for at least four weeks with a broken hand. The New York Giants placed McKinney on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, leaving him sidelined for Weeks 10-13 at minimum (ESPN). In his absence, Julian Love should be expected to take on a more expansive role, picking up the slack in McKinney’s absence.

Xavier McKinney is a massive loss for the Giants’ defense. The captain hadn’t missed a snap since Week 3 of last season, the longest active snap streak among defensive players, and was the Giants’ signal-caller on defense (Dan Duggan of The Athletic). Of the three other safeties on the Giants’ roster (Julian Love, Dane Belton, Justin Pinnock), Julian Love is by far the most experienced and dependable of the bunch. Julian Love is in-line to take over communication duties for the Giants’ defense.

Julian Love was Xavier McKinney’s co-captain of the defense, so it is safe to assume he will take over the communication duties. The fourth-year safety already has a lot on his plate, moving all over the defense and playing a variety of positions in the secondary. This is Love’s first season as a full-time starter, and the Giants plan to reward him for his performances. The New York Giants and Julian Love are discussing a contract extension during the bye week to lock him in for the foreseeable future.

This season, Julian Love has started all eight games for the Giants as they have achieved their impressive 6-2 record. Love is on pace to set new career highs in combined tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss. On the season, Julian Love has already totaled one interception, two passes defended, one fumble forced and one recovered, 58 combined tackles (career-high of 68), and three tackles for loss.

In coverage, opposing quarterbacks have targeted Julian Love 25 times, completing 16 passes (64%) for 174 yards and two touchdowns. He’s currently allowing only 7.0 yards per target, the lowest mark Love has posted since his rookie season (6.6 yards per target). Julian Love has also been highly efficient as a tackle, missing only two tackles so far this season (3.3% missed tackle rate, best of his career thus far).

Julian Love’s value to the New York Giants cannot be understated, especially in a time like this. Love possesses elite versatility, playing every position in the secondary at one point or another in his career. Xavier McKinney’s 1,432 consecutive snap streak is coming to an end, but the Giants are fortunate enough to have a capable replacement in Julian Love.

As Julian Love elevates into this expanded role, he could prove his worth and increase his value to the New York Giants. This is a crucial time for Julian Love to perform at a high level amidst contract negotiations. Finishing the year strong in an expanded role could give Love and his representatives extra negotiating power. Xavier McKinney will be out for an extensive amount of time, but the New York Giants are fortunate to have Julian Love as their next man up.

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