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Notebook: Versatile DB Julian Love 'fun to coach'


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Julian Love has been the Giants' most versatile defensive back since his arrival in 2019.

As a cornerback, he can play in the slot and on the perimeter. When he lines up at safety, Love is equally proficient in the box or playing deep.

First-year defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is the latest to laud Love's many talents.

"Those guys you can move around are fun to coach because the number one thing is how smart he is – how football smart he is," Martindale said today. "He understands little things and it's a valuable piece to have when you're putting a defense together in this league."

Love has teamed with Xavier McKinney as the Giants' first-team safeties since the arrival of Brian Daboll and Martindale. He has comfortably settled into the back of Martindale's defense.

"It's fun," Love said. "I'm always at my best when I'm around the ball. I think that third down and sub packages, I've always kind of been in that role but deeper, so being the guy up front kind of like how (former Giants safety) Jabrill (Peppers) has been used in the past is fun. Third down thing but early down, I'm just happy to be back there at safety holding it down and then I get to move up and do some fun stuff on third down."

Martindale spent the previous 10 seasons on the Baltimore Ravens' coaching staff, the last four as the coordinator.

"I didn't know much about him or the system," Love said. "I just knew that it was aggressive, and you were going to have to pressure a lot, a lot of man coverage. He really just knows how to scheme up some pressures. A lot of stuff, really, isn't a pressure. It's simulated to, where we might be only sending four, but he finds ways to get free runners to the quarterback, which I think is fun. If you are a free runner to the quarterback, that's what you want on defense, so I've enjoyed it. I've enjoyed getting to know him and know the system."

Cornerbacks Adoree' Jackson and Aaron Robinson are the other secondary starters and Darnay Holmes has spent all of training camp as the No. 1 slot corner. It's an understatement to say Martindale is excited about the group.

"I've told Rome (defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson), and I've said this already, I think he's the best secondary coach there is in the league," Martindale said. "I love our first group of secondary players and now we've just got to keep building on depth of that secondary. I love how they compete; I love how they practice and I'm excited to see them play against another team. It's going to be fun to watch. That'll be a process and I'll keep you all up to date on that. I really love how they compete."

Martindale is so enamored with the defensive backs he's given McKinney a green dot on his helmet, meaning he is the player on the field who receives the play call from Martindale and announces it to the other 10 players. That assignment traditionally goes to middle linebackers.

"Here's the beauty of it," Martindale said. "Generally, if you're just speaking of the National Football League, yeah, but that's not saying that's the best guy to wear it. It's one of those things where you pass it forward and the MIKE does what he would've done if he got the call himself. You're just echoing it one level. The other thing is too, is if Dex (defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence) was going to play every play, Dex or Leo (Leonard Williams) was going to play every play, they could wear the green dot. That's how smart they are."

Martindale will test the system in the Giants' preseason opener Thursday night in New England. McKinney may or may not keep the green dot in the regular season.

"I don't think that's written in stone yet," Martindale said. "I've always thought that to survive in this league you've got look at everything and just because something's always been done one way, it doesn't mean that's the way you have to do it. That could change week to week on who we have wear the green dot. The biggest thing is to get them all communicating. If you look out there, it's not just X, it's Julian Love has one, then we mix in some linebackers and things like that."

View the top photos from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

*Soon after Martindale spoke to the media, McKinney and Jackson intercepted passes in practice.

*Kadarius Toney returned to team drills after being held out of 11-on-11 work yesterday.

*Wide receiver Collin Johnson continued his good camp with several receptions.

*The dog days of camp have arrived as the intense Jersey heat continues. Practice today was particularly chippy, beginning with Saquon Barkley lowering his shoulder into Robinson. Linebacker Tae Crowder threw running back Antonio Williams to the ground after a carry. One snap later, center Jon Feliciano charged directly at Crowder, inciting a fight that included the majority of the roster.

Brian Daboll spoke to the team and there were no further hostilities.

*The Giants today signed tackle Eric Smith, who played his first two NFL games for the team in 2019.

Smith is the second tackle added to the team in the last four days, joining Will Holden.

To create room on the roster, they terminated the contract of tackle Matt Gono.

Smith, 6-4 and 308 pounds, entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with the Miami Dolphins in 2017. He was then with New England and the Jets before the Giants acquired him off waivers on Sept. 1, 2019.

Smith made his debut against the Jets on Nov. 10, 2019, when he replaced left tackle Nate Solder (concussion) in the second quarter and played 53 of the team's 69 offensive snaps. He also saw action against Miami on Dec. 15.

Smith played one game for Dallas in 2020 and one for Arizona last year.

Gono was signed by the Giants on March 11 after missing the entire 2021 season following an injury. Last week, he was placed on the exempt/left squad list.


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