EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 15: Albert Wilson #15 of the Miami Dolphins carries the ball as Julian Love #24 of the New York Giants defends in the second quarter at MetLife Stadium on December 15, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Julian Love is a young, versatile option in the New York Giants secondary, and it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll assist the team in 2020.

Ryan Honey

Drafted as a cornerback, fielded as a safety.

The confidence the New York Giants possess in Julian Love is clear. The young defensive back played cornerback for Notre Dame during his three years at the collegiate level. But when Big Blue drafted him, many believed he could be the successor to Antoine Bethea, an aging free safety who the team ended up releasing after just one season.

After becoming sort of a mystery for the first 10 games of his rookie campaign, Love found significant playing time when Jabrill Peppers missed the final five weeks due to a transverse process fracture. The first-year player started each of those matchups at strong safety, expanding his versatility even more.

So with that said, where will the Giants put Love in 2020? Does he remain a safety? Does he return to the cornerback position and possibly fill the slot corner role?

Well for one, the narrative of him being Bethea’s successor could very much become true. And not to mention, it’s certainly a current idea in his head.

“Oh, definitely, that thought crosses my mind every day,” he told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “I want to be the safety of the future for the Giants.

“I believe I’m the guy. If I didn’t feel that way I wouldn’t say that. But I do feel like that. I’ve been working real hard. I want to go there and get everything in motion and really have a dominant year.”

Prior to Peppers going down in the Week 12 loss to the Chicago Bears, Love had played just three total defensive snaps in the NFL. In those final six games — which included his five starts — he recorded 35 combined tackles, five tackles for loss, one interception, one forced fumble, and three passes defended. His lone pick came in the matchup in which he relieved the injured Peppers.

But strong safety is a lot different than the free safety spot. The latter position isn’t as physical, for the most part, and is one more involved in the deeper part of the field.

Having said that, it would certainly be a transition for Love if he were to make the switch. But if the Giants show confidence in him, then I say go for it. He’s a young, fresh option, which would certainly be different than what the team experienced last year with the 35-year-old Bethea.

Thus, you’d likely have a defensive backfield including James Bradberry and Deandre Baker at cornerback, Love and Peppers respectively at the free and strong safety spots, and either Grant Haley or Corey Ballentine at slot corner.

But who’s to say the Giants won’t take a safety in the draft? Possibly someone like Ashtyn Davis from Cal? The potential third-rounder earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors in 2018 and second-team honors in 2019.

If that’s the case and the Giants prefer whomever they select to take on the starting free safety duties, it would leave Love to potentially perform in the slot.

At the moment, the Giants don’t seem to carry a long-term answer at the nickel corner position. Ballentine and Haley have both struggled. The former, who the Giants drafted in the sixth round last year, played in 13 games (two starts) and allowed quarterbacks to complete 64.3% of their throws for 393 yards and four touchdowns when targeting him. Haley, on the other hand, played in 15 games (three starts) in 2019 and allowed quarterbacks to complete 82.1% of their throws for 342 yards and one score.

Love wasn’t that much better in coverage last season (65.5% completion rate, 190 yards, one touchdown). Nonetheless, the talent he portrayed as a safety could prompt the Giants to have more faith in him than either of the two aforementioned individuals.

You’d then be looking at a secondary likely comprising of Bradberry and Baker at the two corner spots, Love in the slot, then Peppers and a potential draftee at the strong and free safety spots, respectively.

A number of scenarios exist as Love enters his sophomore campaign in the pros. Any situation would benefit the Giants, considering the athletic Love possesses the ability to succeed in multiple areas.

Where he actually ends up will be an interesting story once the training camp period arrives.

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