Patriots Sign Giants Defender, 19-Game Career Starter

Patriots sign Giants safety Adrian Colbert

Getty CeeDee Lamb #88 of the Dallas Cowboys is tackled by Adrian Colbert #34 and Tae Crowder #48 of the New York Giants.

The New England Patriots-New York Giants pipeline is apparently a two-way street. After littering his roster with Patriots castoffs and players with whom he has a history with during his first season as Big Blue’s head coach, Joe Judge has now seen one of his own jettison to Foxborough.

The Patriots have announced the signing of safety Adrian Colbert alongside veteran running back Tyler Gaffney. The terms of the contracts have yet to be disclosed.

Colbert, 27, spent one season in East Rutherford appearing in six games, serving as special teams contributor and even working his way into a starting defensive role before injuries ended his 2020 campaign prematurely.

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Colbert Unseated Julian Love in Starting Lineup Prior to Injury

We all know Julian Love as the Mr. Do-it-all of the Giants’ secondary. A former consensus All-American turned NFL safety, Love has moonlighted in numerous roles for the team over his two pro seasons.

Despite playing behind a star-studded duo in Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers, Love proved a vital piece of New York’s defense this past season, logging 718 defensive snaps — fourth-most among all Giants defensive backs. Yet, at one point it appeared the coaching staff was ready to toss aside Love’s versatility for familiarity with Colbert.

Claimed off of waivers in early September, Colbert spent part of the 2019 season with the Miami Dolphins, starting the final five games of the year under the watchful eye of now-Giants defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham.

It took some time for Colbert to find his footing in New York as he battled a quad injury that forced him to miss two of the first three games of the season. However come Week 4, a healthy Colbert was thrust into the starting lineup against the Los Angeles Rams — at Love’s expense.

“It appears Colbert has at least supplanted Love on the depth chart,” North Jersey Media Group’s Zack Rosenblatt wrote following the contest.

The Miami (FL) product outsnapped Love 43-to-17 on the evening, logging the third-most snaps amongst the Giants’ secondary (75%) and notching a solid 76.4 tackling grade per Pro Football Focus. The following week, the differential grew even more exponentially. Colbert drew a season-high 50 snaps vs. the Dallas Cowboys. Love, on the other hand, failed to see the field for even a single snap.

Love had been dealing with a handful of lower-body ailments to start the season. This led to some rumblings of whether the injuries were worse than publically portrayed, as people tried to make sense of his drastic falloff in snaps and production (40.9 PFF grade at the time). Either way, it was quite evident the Giants were extremely fond of what Colbert was bringing to the table.

“I’d say AC [Colbert], he’s a guy who comes to work every day, plays with a high motor,” Judge said. “Obviously, we missed him last week. He was out with a strain. He’s a guy we’re happy to have out there. I think he’s making some plays for us. He’s been flying around with high energy, he’s good for the defense out there, he’s good for the team just being a good team player.”


No Room for Colbert

Unfortunately, things went downhill for Colbert from that point on. A shoulder injury forced him to miss the team’s following three games before the Giants ultimately opted to place the safety on injured reserve.

In his absence, Love reclaimed his role in the G-Men’s secondary, playing 43%-plus of the team’s defensive snaps in 10 of the team’s final 11 games. Colbert’s return to action in Week 15 essentially coincided with rookie Xavier McKinney’s insertion into the lineup. Consequently, he played out the remainder of the season mostly on special teams, logging just six defensive snaps the rest of the way.

Entering the league as a seventh-round pick with the San Franciso 49ers, Colbert has flashed high-end traits at times. Pro Football Focus’ graded Colbert as the NFL’s sixth-ranked rookie safety in 2017 with an overall grade of 77.6 after collecting 32 total tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and five passes defended on the year. Yet for the most part, Colbert has settled in as a serviceable rotational piece on the backend with added value on special teams.

Over his four-year career, spanning across stints with the Giants, Niners and ‘Phins, Colbert has accumulated 93 tackles, two forced fumbles and eight passes defended in 33 games (19 starts).

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