New York Giants: Julian Love is here to stay after terrific debut

It looks as though New York Giants rookie safety Julian Love will play a big role over the last five games, as the youngster made the most of his opportunity against the Bears.
All season long, New York Giants fans and media have been puzzled as to why fourth-round pick Julian Love could not work himself into the mix at safety. The rookie was amongst the best defensive backs in all of college football after starring at Notre Dame, and Big Blue’s selection of him in the draft was almost unanimously received as a solid pick and a steal.
Defensive coordinator James Bettcher almost immediately began transitioning the rookie to the safety position, which made some sense at the time due to the team’s weakness at the position. However, even after watching veteran Antoine Bethea struggle all season long, Love could simply not get into the mix, as the rookie had just three defensive snaps coming into Week 12.
That changed on Sunday on Chicago, as Love was ‘forced’ into action when Jabrill Peppers left with an injury. The former Notre Dame star looked every bit like he belonged out there, as he turned in a fantastic effort and almost willed the Giants to a victory. Love was even able to force a turnover, coming down with Mitchell Trubisky pass in which he was positioned perfectly to take advantage of the errant throw. While the throw was surely bad, it almost seemed like Love lulled him into making it.
According to Pro Football Focus, Love earned a grade of 80.1, which is outstanding. While the rookie was only credited with one tackle, he also saved what would have been a touchdown (the play ended up getting called back due to a hands to the face call anyway, though) on a 60-yard strike to Allen Robinson where he had a blocker all over him in wide open field, but somehow managed to evade him and trip up the receiver. The play won’t go down in the stat sheet, but that’s the type of playmaking ability that has been sorely missing on the back end of the defense, and there’s no overstating how valuable having such a solid tackler on your last line of defense is.
With Peppers’ playing status for the rest of 2019 very much up in the air, Julian Love figures to be heavily involved in the defense down the stretch. Even if Peppers does work his way back, it would be malpractice to keep Love off the field in favor of the struggling 35-year-old Bethea in the midst of a 2-9 season, but with what we’ve seen from Pat Shurmur, I wouldn’t exactly be shocked.
Crossing free safety off the laundry list of current off-season team needs would be a very positive development, and if the rookie plays like the did on Sunday, that’s going to be the case.