Entering this past offseason, the New York Giants were well aware that improving upon the league’s fifth-worst pass defense from 2019 was a must. That sentiment gained legs in early May as DeAndre Baker’s legal issues arose and only strengthened with time. It would peak in early September, as Baker’s release and safety Xavier Mckinney’s placement on injured reserve were separated by a single day, all within a week prior to opening day.
With that said, aside from splurging on James Bradberry in free agency (a home run addition thus far), a late-offseason addition of veteran Logan Ryan and some few under the radar moves, New York chose mostly to stick with their internal talent, namely Corey Ballentine and Julian Love, to right the ship in their secondary.
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Ballentine & Love Pushed Aside
All systems were a go for the two second-year pros to start the season, as Ballentine and Love each drew the start at their respective positions in Week 1. Love joined the aforementioned Bradberry as the only other Giants defensive back to play all 100% of the team’s defensive snaps against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ballentine didn’t fall too far behind, logging 59 snaps (92%), sixth-most on the entire defensive unit.
However, it’s been nothing but downhill for the two young DBs from that point on. Ballentine was the first of the two to see his playing time dissipate and ultimately disappear. In Week 2, Ballentine lost snaps to fellow cornerback Issac Yiadom, who the team acquired from the Denver Broncos in early-September. After logging just five defensive snaps in his Giants debut the week prior, Yiadom outsnapped Ballentine 36-to-29 in Week 2 against the Chicago Bears.
While Yiadom himself has since been overtaken by waiver-wire addition Ryan Lewis, it has in no way opened the door for Ballentine to regain his role in the Giants’ starting lineup, let alone their rotation. Ballentine has now gone three consecutive weeks without logging a single defensive snap.
Yes, Ballentine’s demotion is disappointing. Yet, it pales in comparison to the fall from grace that Julian Love has endured. While Ballentine is a former sixth-round pick out of a Division II program, Love is a player who many labeled as a potential late round-one, early round-two prospect coming out of Notre Dame in 2019.
His rookie season showed great promise, as Love finished the year ranked No. 13 on Pro Football Focus’ Top 50 NFL Rookies list. His stellar play led to huge expectations this season, with many pegging the versatile defender as a breakout star.
Instead, Logan Ryan has stepped into the swiss-army knife role Love was expected to man this season, while Adrian Colbert, a former seventh-round pick, has unseated Love as the Giants’ starting safety.
Love has not drawn a start since Week 2 and is fresh off a Week 5 outing where his 16 snaps on the day all came on special teams. Five games into his second professional season, Love has seen his overall PFF grade drop 27.2 points from the year prior, currently checking in with a mark of just 43.3.
Question Marks Dominate Giants’ 2019 Draft Class
As The Athletic’s Dan Duggan recently noted, the Giants’ once-promising 2019 draft class is quickly looking a whole lot less impressive. Love and Ballentine being cast aside for journeymen are only the tip of the iceberg. Add in the surprising release of linebacker Ryan Connelly prior to the season, the DeAndre Baker debacle and the below-average play of Daniel Jones, and all you’re truly left with is Darius Slayton and Dexter Lawrence who have established themselves as quality players in the class.
Certainly not what you’d like to hear about a team as reliant on their young talent as the Giants are, and almost definitely yet another indictment on general manager Dave Gettleman.
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