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DB Julian Love: The Good, the Great and The Ugly

Julian Love has mostly been a positionless player for the Giants defensive backfield--and that's a good thing. Nick Falato breaks down how Love contributes and where he still needs to develop.

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman has poured significant resources into the team's defensive secondary this off-season in what's a wise and savvy move that will hopefully pay dividends in the 2021 season. 

The process started in the 2019 draft where Gettleman selected three cornerbacks: DeAndre Baker in the first, Julian Love in the fourth, and Corey Ballentine in the sixth.

Baker and Ballentine are no longer with the squad, but Love remains as a versatile chess piece that can wear many hats for Patrick Graham. 

After Xavier McKinney’s injury in training camp, Love was forced onto the field with more frequency. He executed several roles at the safety position, including single-high, middle-of-the-field closed defender in Cover 1/Cover 3, deep half in middle-of-the-field open defenses, overhang, trap, and he aligned in the box.

Playing all these positions as a safety isn’t uncommon, but Love also found the field as a cornerback. James Bradberry missed the 20-6 primetime loss to the Browns, and Love started, showing solid traits that date back to his college days at Notre Dame. Love also started at corner in week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys.

Love showed an impressive ability to hold up on the outside at cornerback. He played a total of 728 defensive snaps. One hundred forty-five of those snaps were at wide cornerback--most were in the Cleveland and second Dallas matchups.

 Love also played in the slot 61 times and the box 51 times. He has a well-rounded skill-set; his combine testing wasn’t overly impressive, but he doesn’t necessarily show signs of a struggling athlete on the football field.

Julian Love is a good player to have as a fourth safety option behind Logan Ryan, Jabrill Peppers, and Xavier McKinney. If something happens to either of those three players or even one of the two starting cornerbacks, then Love can potentially fill the void in the starting roster and play a nice complement of snaps. Let’s see this Julian Love edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.

(Julian Love is No. 20.)

The Good: Tackling Ability

His tackling ability and closing burst were something of note from his rookie season. If we look at this clip from 2019, we see how Love covers most of the field and takes a great angle towards quarterback Carson Wentz (No. 11). He shows what appears to be better than 4.54 speed.

Here is another play of Love attacking the quick game well and making a strong tackle near the sticks against the Eagles in 2019. It’s a quick trigger that Love has in his repertoire to attack violently and make strong wrap- up type of tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, his missed tackle rate in 2020 was less than 7%. He finished with 51 tackles, 11 against the 49ers.

We see one of them here on an RPO against a split safety look. We see Love backpedaling while reading quarterback Nick Mullens (No. 4); once he sees the running back get through the mesh point, with Mullens eyes locked on Brandon Aiyuk’s (No. 11) route, then he knows to come downhill and handle the run after the catch. 

I appreciate how Love adjusts his angle after the catch and still is able to close on the outside hip of Aiyuk to make a strong tackle. It shows some recoverability.

The bad snap throws some cold water on this designed GT counter run from the Eagles, but Miles Sanders (No. 26) is able to pick the football up and find some wiggle room. Love starts to shade towards the passing strength before realizing the run. Once Sanders gets through his blocks, he seems to be in the clear, but Love is able to jump at his legs and make the tackle against a really good athlete in space.

The Great: Versatility

Man Coverage

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I think Love can probably improve his overall man covering ability, but he shows traits that suggest he’s NFL capable. Love is at the bottom of the screen on the backside of a 3x1 set where the receiver, Michael Gallup (No. 13), releases outside.

Love does a solid job initiating contact once the route is committed; he closes on the inside hip of Gallup, gets hands-on, and then gets his eyes up to defend a possible fade route. Love rides Gallup off the red-line and into the sidelines.

He feels this and gets his head back around to undercut Gallup as he transitions back to the inside. Gallup pushes off to create some space, but Love is able to harass the receiver enough to force an incomplete pass.

The reaction time and feel for this route are solid here from Love, who does a great job breaking on the ball and almost intercepting a pass from Andy Dalton (No. 14). Love senses Amari Cooper’s (No. 19) break outside on the quick route, and he reacts with a good break while almost taking advantage of a poor Dalton throw. He does have to make this catch, though.

Reading Routes

This isn’t heads-up man coverage or anything, but Love is aligned as a safety splitting between the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers in the 3x1 set. His job is to read the No. 1 to the No. 2 and take any inside breaking routes.

James Bradberry (No. 24) gives the under call on the quick slant, and Love does a solid job timing up his hit to force an incompletion. He heard the call and could have gone in with a more wild nature but slowed his tempo down to avoid the yellow laundry.

Love isn’t aligned at safety here; he’s outside at the top of the screen in a backpedal, watching to see the route distribution from the two outside receivers. This is a fantastic seam bender from Jarvis Landry (80). It’s Love’s job to handle any vertical route from that side.

He sees how the No. 1 wide receiver is slowing his pacing down while he reads the eyes of quarterback Baker Mayfield (No. 6). The flat defender, Jabrill Peppers (No. 21), gets outside the numbers and Love breaks inside on the vertical route to limit the space of operation near the seam. He closes on the catch point quickly and makes a good play on the ball

Deep Safety

Love is the center field safety here, and he shows solid range, covering a substantial amount of space on the deep throw to the streaking route. At the time of the throw, Love is on the far hash. He’s able to take a good angle near the numbers and help force an incomplete pass.

Great vision, reaction, and hip turn from Love to square up this deep crossing route by the 49ers. There’s a lot of speed in his run downhill, and he attacks well with an advantageous angle. It’s difficult to gauge the speed and find the most logical way to attack these deep crossing routes, but Love does a good job on this play delivering a powerful hit on the receiver right as he catches the football.

The Ugly: Jack of All Trades, Master of None

Julian Love is solid to good at many things the Giants ask him to do--this is a very valuable trait to have. However, he isn’t excellent at any one thing, which may limit him to nothing more than a role player. It’s not an UGLY thing at all; it’s just the reality of a fourth-round pick that transitioned his position when entering the NFL.

His ability to wear many hats will undoubtedly help a defensive coordinator like Patrick Graham, and Graham’s ability to employ his talent wisely is a great way for Love to continue seeing the football field when injuries happen on the backend of the Giants' defense. 

I appreciate what Love brings to this team when filling in for other injured players, but I don’t think he has immense upside in terms of star power.

Final Thoughts

Love is a valuable and versatile piece for Patrick Graham to use wherever he deems fit. He has a well-rounded skill-set; he can execute man coverage assignments, match type of assignments, and he is no liability in run support. He is a good piece to have on any roster as a third or fourth safety; for the Giants, he’s the latter. 


More "Good, Great & Ugly" Breakdowns

RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson | TE Evan Engram | S Jabrill Peppers | S Xavier McKinney | ILB Reggie Ragland | WR John Ross | TE Kyle Rudolph | OLB Oshane Ximines | LB Carter Coughlin | IDL Dexter Lawrence II | WR Darius Slayton | LB Cam Brown | DL Leonard Williams | OL Will Hernandez | IDL Austin Johnson | IDL B.J. Hill | WR Sterling Shepard | ILB Blake Martinez | DB Logan Ryan | C Nick Gates | OT Matt Peart | CB Darnay Holmes | ILB Tae Crowder | CB James Bradberry | QB Daniel Jones | OL Shane Lemieux


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