Julian Love was loving the thought.
The Giants’ rookie safety will make his first NFL start Sunday at MetLife Stadium against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers after Jabrill Peppers was declared out Friday.
Sam Beal is excited to face Rodgers, too. The virtual rookie, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, is set to share left cornerback with rookie starter DeAndre Baker for the second straight week.
When the Giants play in the nickel, they will have three rookie or first-year players in the secondary at once because rookie Corey Ballentine is the slot corner. So four young defensive backs are down to compete against a seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who has thrown 18 touchdown passes and just two interceptions for an 8-3 team.
Good or bad, it will be an experience for them.
“Hey, listen, they’ve got to go out and battle,” Pat Shurmur said. “Aaron Rodgers has made veteran defensive backs look not so good.”
The head coach said the four DBs “are getting better each week.”
Love, Beal and Ballentine all received their most extended time on defense at Chicago on Sunday when the Giants dropped their seventh straight and fell to 2-9. Love made his first interception. The fourth-rounder from Notre Dame played the second half after Peppers suffered a back injury.
“I always say, ‘Baby steps; take it step by step,’ ” Love said. “My first play was against Tom Brady, one of the better quarterbacks in the league. And then you have my first start against Aaron Rodgers, another one. So I’m excited to have the opportunity to tell that story one day.”
Beal’s 2019 story began with a preseason hamstring injury. He was placed on IR again. But last year’s third-round selection in the supplemental draft was activated after missing the first nine games. Then he received a chance to rotate with Baker. The first-round pick had his struggles in the first 10 games. Beal called this “a great opportunity.”
“You used to watch these guys play on TV every Sunday or every other week,” Beal said. “Actually knowing that you’re going to get some snaps against (Rodgers), it’s going to be fun. Basically, you’re hoping that you win the battle.”
Ballentine said he thinks he’s “doing well.” But the sixth-rounder from Division II Washburn also said, “I think sometimes you’ve got to go out there and get the experience to know how to play things correctly.”
Rodgers will provide on-the-job training. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher wants these young secondary guys to play until the whistle, saying Rodgers is “going to extend plays.”
“I think it’s going to be a tough challenge,” Ballentine said. “He’s a great quarterback.”
Injury report. Besides Peppers, receiver Golden Tate (concussion), tight ends Evan Engram (foot) and Rhett Ellison (concussion) and long snapper Zak DeOssie (knee, wrist) are out. Shurmur didn’t confirm reports DeOssie is headed to IR. Colin Holba is expected to be promoted from the practice squad to replace him.