Julian Love excited to get to work with Xavier McKinney, Darnay Holmes
Giants defensive back Julian Love did not see the field much on defense in the first 10 games of his rookie season - most of his playing time came on special teams.
But things changed in Week 12. Jabrill Peppers injured his back in the first half at Chicago, leading to Love taking over at safety. The Notre Dame alumn quickly registered his first career interception and pass breakup while playing in front of friends and family, and never looked back.
Love spoke to the media Friday for the first time in training camp and discussed the opportunity he received against the Bears.
"I just tried to stay ready whenever my time was going to come," Love said. "Obviously, it came in Chicago. I just tried to step up to the plate for our team to help us succeed, help guys grow and move forward. I think my whole mindset was to stay ready, and it always is. Stay ready, stay aware, and be ready to go."
Love played at least 97 percent of the Giants' defensive snaps in each of the team's final five games of the year, and looked more than comfortable. The fourth-round pick finished the season with 35 tackles (28 solo), five tackles for losses, one quarterback hit, one interception, three passes defended and one forced fumble.
Love earned the ninth-best grade in the box over the final six weeks, according to Pro Football Focus, and allowed just 19 yards on his 80 coverage snaps in that alignment.
Of greater importance is that new head coach Joe Judge is high on players who can play multiple roles. Love, a corner for the Fighting Irish, has already shown the team that he is ready to contribute in any way possible.
"My mindset at all times is wherever they want me, I'm going to play," Love said. "I've bounced around positions my whole life in the defensive backfield. It's no different now. No matter where I'm at or how old I am, I'm always ready to play whatever. I'm excited to do that. I just want to be a ball player, that's what it comes down to."
The Giants added competition to the secondary in the draft this year, taking two defensive backs in the first four rounds. Returning veterans put into this position could get concerned about their playing time, but Love was excited with the selection of safety Xavier McKinney.
"I've gotten to know Xavier a little bit," Love said about the Giants' second-round choice. "As a person, I'm excited to have him as somebody who's next to me. Next to me in terms of being a friend, being a brother on the team. When he was drafted, I just thought, 'Wow, that's great firepower for us.' I had heard about him, I know how he is as a person, as a player, how he prepares. I think that's what we needed around here. I was excited when he got that call."
In addition to McKinney, the Giants also tabbed cornerback Darnay Holmes in the fourth round. Holmes impressed during Friday's intrasquad scrimmage, making perhaps the standout play of early camp. The rookie corner fully extended himself fully to make an interception on a deep ball down the left side. Holmes was able to corral the pass and maintain possession as he hit the ground for the most spectacular of his several picks this summer.
Not only has Holmes been performing well at practice, he's also provided a boost off the field.
"As a person, he's very intelligent, a very kind person," Love said of the former UCLA star. "A person who really is focused on his craft. I love to see that, we all feed off of his energy. Everybody is learning who he is more. As a person, it's great to have him next to me, next to us in that DB room. He brings the energy each day and the focus. As a person, he's a great dude."
Joe Judge has 'a lot of confidence' in Cam Fleming
Is this the year Cam Fleming becomes a fulltime NFL starter?
In six previous seasons in the league – four with New England and two with Dallas – the offensive tackle played in 86 regular-season and postseason games. But he started only 28 of them. Fleming started a career-high seven games for the 2015 Patriots. Last year, he was in the starting lineup in three of the 14 games in which he played for the Cowboys.
In the regular season, Fleming has started 10 games at both left and right tackle, five as a tackle-eligible tight end and one game his rookie season at right guard. Both of his postseason starts were at right tackle.
Fleming did not have a defined position when he signed with the Giants as a free agent on March 26. He was considered a contender at right tackle, which did not have an incumbent after last year's starter, Mike Remmers, joined the Kansas City Chiefs, as well as a player who could provide depth at several O-line spots. Then on July 29, Nate Solder, the starting left tackle in all 32 games the previous two years, announced he was opting out of the 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns. That left two openings at tackle. Fleming and first-round draft choice Andrew Thomas are among the contenders to fill them.
"Whatever position they decide to put me in, I'm ready for it," Fleming said today. "I've always been ready. I'm just here to work. Hopefully, we have a great season this year."
Fleming has previously played for the individuals who are now his three most influential coaches: Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and Marc Colombo. During Fleming's tenure in New England, Judge was first an assistant special teams coach and then the coordinator. In his final season with the Patriots in 2017, Fleming started at right tackle in the AFC Championship Game vs. Jacksonville and Super Bowl LII against Philadelphia.
"I've played in a lot of big games with Cam Fleming starting at right tackle for us and we came out on the right end of that," Judge said. "I have a lot of confidence in Cam. He comes to work every day and works hard. He's familiar with the system and he plays with the right demeanor. I have a lot of confidence in Cam, I don't care what his history has been because I have been there for part of his history and we won a lot of big games together."
Notebook: Giants position coaches talk team depth
On many days throughout training camp, three Giants assistant coaches speak to the media on Zoom calls. Position coaches are understandably asked most often about their front-line players – Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, Leonard Williams, etc.
The threesome interviewed today were Sean Spencer (defensive line), Kevin Sherrer (inside linebackers) and Tyke Tolbert (wide receivers). And while they were questioned about some of their starters, they fielded several queries regarding backups and players whose names are seldom included in daily media reports.
Spencer, for example, was asked his thoughts about B.J. Hill, RJ McIntosh, Austin Johnson and Chris Slayton.
"I like what I see from all those guys throughout camp," Spencer said. "Everyone is working hard. We know it's tremendous competition in that room. One of the things that I stressed in the meeting today is let's not lose sight of that. We do things where sometimes we split the field up, and I don't want those guys to ever think that I'm not watching. I want them to have tremendous competition within each other, day in and day out. They can't take their foot off the gas ever."
The first question to Sherrer was about Devante Downs, who has played 20 games for the Giants and Minnesota Vikings and has yet to record a defensive tackle. But Downs has good size (6-3 and 242 pounds) and speed. He joined the Giants' practice squad last Oct. 1, was elevated to the active roster three weeks later and played exclusively on special teams in seven games.
"I know he came in later in the season last year," said Sherrer, who was then coaching at the University of Tennessee. "It's a perfect example of kind of wiping the slate clean, giving the guy an opportunity with everyone on a level playing field. He's done well for us."
At wide receiver, the Giants have a top threesome of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton plus young veteran Corey Coleman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Tolbert also has an intriguing group of youngsters, including third-year pro C.J. Board; Alex Bachman, who spent the final two months of the 2019 season on the Giants' practice squad; rookie free agents Tony Brown, Derrick Dillon, Binjimen Victor and Austin Mack; plus David Sills, who joined the Giants last December and was inactive for the final two games. Sills went undrafted after catching 132 passes and scoring 35 touchdowns in 33 games at West Virginia University.
He has continued to impress in the Giants' training camp.
"David Sills has done a really good job," Tolbert said. "He's a really smart guy, he's working hard. He'll go in there and play all of the positions. I told you guys the other day, he's a rep stealer. He has his reps, he's going to go in and run his reps, then he'll steal some other reps. If he sees guys running down the field, he'll jump in there and say 'I got them, I got them.' I like that about him. He jumps in there, doesn't matter what position it is. He goes in there and plays and executes his assignments."
Photos: Giants ramp intensity back up Monday
Check out the gallery below to view photos from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
View photos from Monday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.