Julian Love ended his All-America career at Notre Dame with a 30-3 loss to Clemson eight months ago at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. He sees it as poetic justice that his NFL career will begin in the same stadium Sunday afternoon when the Giants open their 2019 season against the Cowboys.
“I ended my college career in Cowboys Stadium, and I’m excited to start my NFL career in Cowboys Stadium and get a little redemption,” Love told The Post on Thursday. “Playing in the NFL is something I’ve dreamed of. It’s awesome to have it come true.”
Love, a fourth-round draft choice, is one of several rookies who are expected to receive meaningful minutes for a revamped Giants defense that faces a tough challenge in containing a Cowboys offense featuring running back Ezekiel Elliott, tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Amari Cooper and quarterback Dak Prescott.
Love joins cornerbacks DeAndre Baker (first-round pick from Georgia) and Corey Ballentine (sixth-rounder from Washburn), defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence (first-round choice from Clemson) and linebackers Oshane Ximines (third-rounder from Old Dominion) and Ryan Connelly (Wisconsin fifth-rounder) as rookies who have performed well enough in training camp to be either first- or second-team on the depth chart.
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It’s not ideal to have so many rookies playing pivotal roles, but the Giants are hoping they have prepared their young players well enough to handle what they’re about to encounter.
“Our mindset is we play one play at a time, and that’s all that matters,” said defensive coordinator James Bettcher. “We talk about being where your feet are on defense, that’s in the moment, that’s focused and locked in. You get a call, you communicate the call, you get in a stance, you get your eyes right, and when the ball is snapped you go play. Being able to do that as a young player for 20 plays, for 45 plays, for 60 plays, whatever you’re tasked with doing that week, that’s how rookies have to do.”
You can bet the Cowboys will be looking for the Giants rookies, especially the young defensive backs who figure to be a more tempting option than veteran cornerback Janoris “Jackrabbit” Jenkins. Love’s response: Bring it on.
“You have to be confident in your abilities and expect to make plays,” he said. “That leads to success. I’ll just focus on what I’ve been doing all season.”
Bettcher is impressed with Ximines, a raw talent who had 32.5 sacks during his college career.
“I see a guy that’s definitely going to play with a purpose,” Bettcher said. “I think we all have seen he is going to play with his hair on fire. He’s going to play fast, and I love that about him. If you don’t do that first, you don’t have a chance. He’s a guy that just every day is going to grow. Every day he is going to work to get better.”
Ximines doesn’t mind beginning his career in Arlington.
“Everybody knows that stadium,” he said. “I’m sure there will be moments where I’ll probably try too hard. But all I can do is learn from it and stick to playing football. I’m haven’t developed into the player I’m going to be. But I’m working hard every day to be the best player I can be.”
The upside is that the Giants draft looks like it was a success and bodes well for the future. The downside is the number of rookies who will be counted on to make an immediate impact. Bettcher doesn’t mind.
“There are a lot of guys that have something to go play and prove and establish themselves,” he said. “I think it’s going to be exciting for me as I watch it from my position to see how it unfolds.”
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