Julian Love ready for bigger role in Giants' new defense
Julian Love said new defensive coordinator Don “Wink” Martindale is one of the most approachable coaches with whom he’s ever worked.
“Right away it was so easy to talk to Wink,” Love, the Giants’ fourth-year defensive back, told Newsday on Tuesday at the United Way of New York City’s 29th annual Gridiron Gala. “You can talk to him about anything. He’s a big fan of golf. Loves his Jordans. It’s been very fun so far. You feel like you’ve known him forever and it’s only been a couple of weeks.”
Something else Love has been able to talk to Martindale about: How he’ll be deployed this season.
That may be the biggest change of all for Love.
After spending most of his career as a role player in the secondary who was able to patch up holes when they appeared — former coach Joe Judge dubbed him “Duct Tape” because of his versatility and ability to fix situations — Love seems poised to take on a bigger role in this year’s defense.
“All I know is we’re going to have a lot of fun with me this year,” said Love, who has played in all but one game during his time with the Giants and started 16 of his 48 contests with three career interceptions, 13 pass defenses and seven tackles for loss. “I’ve always felt like I was a guy who was kind of selfless in his role, to do whatever was needed, and now I’m excited to take charge and make plays and put myself in positions where I can succeed.”
Part of that is tapping into Love’s skill set, but part of it is also due to a lack of other options. The Giants parted ways with two veteran safeties this offseason in Logan Ryan and Jabrill Peppers and likely will be without their best cornerback with James Bradberry’s current contract untenable for the team’s salary cap. That left only a handful of experienced players in the secondary, and Love is at the top of that list. He is the longest-tenured defensive back for the Giants and the second longest-tenured NFL player in the secondary behind Adoree’ Jackson.
“The room has cleared out and we’re young,” Love said, “but me and Zay [third-year safety Xavier McKinney] have really been proactive in getting in the film room, putting in the time, getting the defense down early so when these new guys come in we can help bring them along sooner.”
Some of the new guys will include recent draft picks Cor’Dale Flott and Dan Belton.
“Honestly, we’re not in a position as a team to let the rookies figure it out on their own,” Love said. “We need to bring those guys along quick. That’s real. We’re excited for these guys to get in so we can help them out and we can get going as a team.”
Love hopes Bradberry returns
Although he has not attended any of the offseason workouts while his situation is resolved by the front office, James Bradberry remains on the Giants’ roster and, more significant, part of the fabric of the secondary. McKinney said at the start of the offseason program that he has remained in touch with Bradberry and Love said on Tuesday that the defensive backs continue to include him in their off-field group texts and other interactions.
“It’s weird,” Love said. “We’re letting the guys up top handle all of that but we still talk to him.”
Love said most have come to grips with the reality that Bradberry will not be with them on the field in 2022 but “personally a lot of us are [holding out hope] because we really love JB.”
“He’s a fantastic teammate, fantastic player,” Love said. “Hopefully things can work out. You never know. The draft didn’t answer that question. So we’re waiting to see what happens . . . He’s a guy we can definitely use but it’s not my decision.”