By Jeff Moeller, The New York Extra/thenyextra.com
Julian Love is very accustomed to flexibility.
That’s pretty impressive for a second-year cornerback who was drafted in the fourth round from Notre Dame in the 2019 draft, especially from the jumbled schemes of former defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
Love made the move to safety last season in the Giants’ secondary shuffle, and made five starts at strong safety in place of the injured Jabrill Peppers.
He recorded 30 solo tackles from his 37 combined stops, and was part of the youth infusion last season that included Corey Ballantine and Grant Haley on the back end.
At safety, Love played 176 snaps in the box, 129 as a slot corner, and 77 as a free safety last year.
When free safety Antoine Bethea was released earlier this year, the 5-11, 195-pound Love was penciled in at free safety.
However, the rumblings surrounding Love weren’t settled when the Giants signed veteran corner James Bradberry and drafted highly touted safety Xaiver McKinney in the second round. Love’s “check engine light” subliminally ran through the minds of Giants’ brass and fans.
Love understands the assumptions and has checked any doubts at the door.
With a new defensive coordinator (Patrick Graham), new head coach (Joe Judge) and a new outlook, Love has been infused with a positive outlook.
With a better defined scheme thus summer, Love is more anxious.
“I think it’s a special thing,” said Love about the teams’ chemistry to NYGiants.com. “I think we have very intelligent players who are capable of doing whatever is asked of them. That’s what we’re pushing, to really be there for each other. When adversity strikes we just want to make sure everyone is ready. I think it’s been exciting for all of us to take on this challenge.”
Judge is noticing a rising level of confidence.
“He’s getting more comfortable back there, he’s been more vocal,” said the first-year head coach. “That’s important in his role, being the signal-caller in the deep part of the field. He has the athletic ability that we’re going to play him in a different variety of spots based on the matchups. You see him play up in some man coverage sometimes.
“Other times, he’s back in the deep part of the field. We’re going to move him around as needed based on the situation. But to answer your question, overall, I see him improving every day. I’m not really concerned about where he was last year. I’m concerned with where he’s going to be in a couple of days, next week, a month from now, and I see him moving on the right track in that direction.”
The Giants are high on McKinney and believe he can slide into a position this fall. Love isn’t bothered by the hype and has taken a team-first approach.
“I’ve gotten to know Xavier a little bit,” said Love. “As a person, I’m excited to have him as somebody who’s next to me. Next to me in terms of being a friend, being a brother on the team. When he was drafted, I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s great firepower for us.’ I had heard about him, I know how he is as a person, as a player, how he prepares. I think that’s what we needed around here. I was excited when he got that call.”
By most accounts, Love realized how to take the next step from last season.
“No matter which phase I’m at in my career, I’ve kind of taking everything with a grain of salt,” Love said. “I didn’t expect anything to be handed to me. I prepared myself to really work for it. This past season, I really had to work each day for my chance. It’s weird because nobody is ever perfect, but I was trying to be as close to perfect as you can be in practice. Though I wish I could have played earlier, it really prepared me to get my preparation level to where it needs to be to contribute to the team.”
All that’s left now is to see what he can do on the field in September.