When the Giants picked Julian Love, a cornerback at Notre Dame, in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, the selection was heralded as a steal for Big Blue.
One likely reason for such high praise is Love's versatility. He played both the boundary and inside for the Fighting Irish. He was regarded mainly as a very good cover corner with upside in both man and zone coverage despite being average-sized (5'11" and 195 pounds) and with average athleticism.
Love, who has now played for two different defensive coordinators (James Bettcher and Patrick Graham) as a pro, has been deployed a little bit differently in each system.
Bettcher, who took nearly a half a season before finally giving Love (then a rookie) his opportunity) According to Pro Football Focus, Love took most of his snaps in the box (176) with only 77 snaps at free safety, and 129 snaps in the slot in Bettcher's defense.
Graham changed that up, deploying Love mostly at free safety (454 snaps) versus in the box just 51 times. Love also saw fewer slot snaps (61) and an increase of snaps as the wide corner (145).
What He Brings
Love doesn't have the ideal speed and athleticism to play cornerback, and he's not a big bruiser type typically desired at safety. Still, his skillset, when combined, does make him a valuable depth contributor.
Love shows swift feet and good footwork that allows him to keep up with receivers throughout their routes. He’s at his best in tight man coverage where his physicality lets him re-route receivers, then hang in their hip pockets. He is also very good at playing with his back to the quarterback and anticipating when the receiver will make his break.
When it comes to zone coverage, Love's skill set can hamper him, especially in making up ground, but fortunately, his football IQ and patience make up for whatever he lacks from a physical standpoint.
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Where Love runs into trouble is when he's asked to cover larger areas of the field, as his speed and acceleration to close in on a receiver that's managed to gain separation becomes an issue.
One of Love’s strongest assets coming out of college was his ball skills. Thus far, his NFL stats don't support this--in two NFL seasons, he has just three pass breakups, and two interceptions in 729 coverage plays. But in three years at Notre Dame, he allowed just 50.7% of the pass targets against him to be completed while delivering 31 pass breakups and five interceptions.
Love is also a capable run defender. On occasion, he might struggle to disengage from bigger blockers, but Love shows good awareness and anticipation as a run defender and is a solid tackler.
Love is in the third year out of his four-year contract and will count for $1,042,715 against this year's salary cap.
Love's versatility is an underrated part of the Giants defense's sub-packages. It is a big reason why he will more than likely continue in his role as a jack-of-all-trades for the defensive secondary.
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