Julian Love ready to be fully integrated into Giants game plan
Julian Love has always been considered a valuable player in the Giants secondary. Since arriving as Notre Dame’s fourth-round draft pick in 2019, his many coaches have raved about the intelligence, tenacity and versatility he brought to the field. He could line up deep safe, hard safe, or cover in the slot. Once, he even started a game at outside cornerback.
But as much as the coaches and coordinators appreciated all that he could contribute in this regard, no one was ever able to figure out how to use him on a regular basis. He had certain withdrawals and saw time as a starter when others were injured in various positions, but he never really had a defined role.
Sometimes the ability to do too many things at once can be a curse that way. Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen can play guitar and harmonica at the same time and be hailed as musical geniuses; if they added slamming cymbals between their knees and a pumped squeezebox with their elbows, they would become clownish one-man-bands.
That’s why this year Love wants a job. A real job. He doesn’t want his responsibility to be to wait and see who is injured and go replace them without any disappointment. He has spent his career thus far as the next man’s cliche. He is ready to get up.
“You’ve seen too many times that I was backstage waiting for a seat,” Love told Newsday. “I want to be the guy that’s incorporated into the game plan. I will make the most of my opportunity this year.
He may have finally found the coach who can give him that chance.
Love has spent this summer as a fundamental part of the Wink Martindale defense, taking just about every shot with the first-team defense and performing at a high level. He interrupted passes, poked his nose into running stuff and even threw quarterbacks for potential sacks.
The versatility that made Love such an ideal backup for the first three years of his career is finally being utilized in a starting role and valued as a key personality trait across the whole scheme. Poets and philosophers have spent centuries trying to define love; Martindale and his exotic plans may have the spirit best suited to define love.
“These guys you can move are fun to train,” Martindale said of Love. “The first thing is how smart he is, how smart he is at football. He understands the little things and that’s a valuable element to have when you’re putting together a defense in this league.
Love and Xavier McKinney were, as recently as the end of last season, the kids in the safe room. A group of posts led by Jabrill Peppers and Logan Ryan was very personality and experience driven. Now, however, Love and McKinney are the veterans who are not only the Giants’ starting duo, but also the tone setters on and off the court. McKinney even calls defensive plays with the radio in his helmet and when he’s not in huddle (like he wasn’t for the second series of last week’s preseason opener), Love assumes this responsibility.
“I can echo a call with the best of them,” Love said.
However, perhaps the most notable change to Love’s deployment this summer was having him attack quarterbacks. He appears to be racking up two or three sacks a week in practice, auspicious production for a player entering this season with a career total of half a sack. He can often be seen moving closer to the line of scrimmage, sometimes closer to the ball than the linebackers. And while he has yet to make contact with a passer in training camp since the quarterback’s hits are verboten, he usually walks past them with his arms raised to let everyone know he’d be gone again. with withdrawal. Sometimes he even keeps running past the quarterback and, as he called it, head coach Brian Daboll’s ‘buzz the tower’ standing nearby, just to make sure he’s also at the stream of the game.
“It’s fun,” Love said of being in the box mixing with bigger players closer to the action. “I’m always at my best when I’m around the ball. On these third and sub-packages, I’ve always been in that role, but just deeper, so being the front guy, kind of like how Jabrill has been used in the past, is fun. At the start of practice I’m just happy to be back there to safety holding it down and then I can go up and do some fun stuff on the third try.
It’s not entirely new.
“It’s something I did in high school,” he said. “I missed that about the game, really. That’s why I’m like, ‘Don’t get me out of this position, I want to capitalize.'”
That’s what this season is about for Love. He will be a free agent this coming offseason and while every team needs utility players who can serve as multi-faceted substitutes and serve on special teams, the big contracts go to the starters. Whether that deal ends up coming from the Giants or elsewhere, Love wants to sign his next contract as a player with a specific position and a toolkit to go with it, not just a spare tire that sits in the trunk waiting for see if it is ever necessary.
Love ended a different kind of free agency this past offseason. He got married.
“I was kind of locked in there,” he said. “We were doing a lot of stuff before the wedding, which was exciting. I loved every part. It was a perfect day, the honeymoon was perfect. Work-life balance, I’m 100% locked into that stuff.
Football, however, was never far from his thoughts.
“When it’s not time to pick flowers [for the wedding]it’s time to visualize what I want for myself in the season and set myself goals,” he said.
“Everyone knows I’m a pretty selfless guy. I try to do everything I can to help the team improve. But now I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to take my game to the next level.
The era of the one-man-band is over. The cymbals, accordions and bass drum strapped to his back were put away.
It’s time to see if Love can make real music.