This summer you couldn’t get very deep into a conversation about the New York Giants defense before being bombarded with Julian Love hype. Projected to be the Swiss army knife of Big Blue’s defense, the former Notre Dame product was pegged by many as a star in the making.
Yet, nearly halfway into the season, Love is nowhere near star status. In fact, he’s no longer a starter. Love has been cast aside for former seventh-round pick, journeyman Adrian Colbert.
This is a move that puzzles private defensive backs trainer Brian Walker, who has worked with numerous Giants defenders in the past, namely Jabrill Peppers and Darnay Holmes this past offseason.
“Looking at the coaches they have over there, I don’t think they would be foolish enough to not play a guy like Love,” Walker told Giants Wire in a phone interview. Walker went on to toss around the idea of the defensive back potentially not being fully healthy as a way to connect the dots to Love’s diminished playing time.
While Love did battle knee and ankle injuries a few weeks back, it’s not like he showed well earlier in the year, as his 40.9 overall Pro Football Focus grade certainly isn’t doing him any favors.
However, could the root of the issues actually be the fact that Love is being miscast in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme?
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Is it Time to Move Love to Cornerback?
As we are all likely well aware of by now, Love was not only a cornerback during his days with the Fighting Irish, but he was a damn good one. Dare I say, elite?
During his final collegiate campaign, Love posted a 90.7 PFF coverage grade, the third-best among eligible cornerbacks in his draft class. Furthermore, his 39 pass breakups from 2016 through 2019 were the most in the NCAA over that span, as Giants Wire’s Pat Ragazzo highlighted.
Walker, a former cornerback himself at Washington State University, doesn’t see why Love’s college production, along with his skill set, wouldn’t convert to success at the position in the pros.
“Watching his tape at Notre Dame, he made some good plays in terms of adjusting to the ball. Speaking as an expert, Love is a guy who can come up and tackle, he can cover, and he looks good enough to play on the outside at cornerback,” said Walker.
Can Love Play on the Outside? If So, Will the Giants Let Him?
Since entering the NFL, Love has been typecasted as a nickelback. This is a bit puzzling, not because it won’t prove to be his best position, but rather the fact that he played predominantly on the boundary at Notre Dame.
“I mention corner for Love because in college, playing on the outside, he had great ball skills and took a few picks to the house. He made a lot of his plays breaking on the ball in off coverage, which he does very well,” said Walker.
Whether it makes sense or not, don’t expect a position change anytime soon. With the aforementioned Colbert dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, Love will be called upon to man a larger role at safety, as he did this past Sunday.
After logging 17 total snaps from Week 4 through Week 5, Love’s snap count shot up to 63 with Colbert on the mend. Expect a similar usage rate for Love on Thursday against the Eagles as Colbert has once again been ruled out.
As far as long term outlook, the Giants clearly don’t have a guaranteed answer at their CB2 gig across from stud James Bradberry. Over the past two seasons DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine and Isaac Yiadom were all given a chance to claim the job, and for one reason or another, failed.
Ryan Lewis, the current occupant of the position, has a few things going for him. For starters, he’s shown well at times this season. Arguably just as important, he’s familiar with Patrick Graham’s scheme. However, he’s also an UDFA who’s on his seventh team in four pro seasons.
The fact of the matter is, with unproven commodities at the position, Love’s skillset and draft position should at the very least earn him a chance to prove that he can’t excel in the spot.
There’s no telling what Love’s role will look like moving forward, especially when Colbert rejoins the likes of Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan on the backend of Big Blue’s defense.
While there may no longer be a need for Love at safety, the team must find a way to get his talent on the football field. In the words of Walker, “I don’t think they would be foolish enough to not play a guy like Love.”
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