DeAndre Baker and Julian Love got to know each other a little bit before the draft. They spent time together at the All-America weekend banquet, and again when they were both up for the Thorpe Award presented to the top defensive back in the country.
Now, they’re two of the key pieces in a Giants secondary that is transitioning from one generation to the next. The two draft picks — Baker in the first round, Love in the fourth — could become significant players in their rookie seasons and start to build a foundation for the future.
The two are roommates at this weekend’s rookie minicamp, and that’s no coincidence. The Giants would like to see them paired up for the foreseeable future, making plays and complementing each other on the field as part of a 1-2 punch that can grow and learn together.“Hopefully,” Baker said about such aspirations. “That’s our goal. We want to come in and get a chance to help the team win games. If that’s what we can do, hopefully we’ll work to it.”
“I really think so,” Love said of the possibility. “We both want to win and when you have that mindset and you do what it takes in order to win I think you can be very successful.”
The last time the Giants used two picks in the first four rounds of a draft on a pair of players listed as cornerbacks was 2001, when they took Will Allen in the first round and Will Peterson in the third. They hadn’t drafted any cornerbacks in the top four rounds since Eli Apple in 2016 (although they did use a supplemental third to acquire Sam Beal last year).
Baker and Love already have started to feed off one another. Love said he enjoys Baker’s confidence and energy on the field.“He kind of has that dog mindset,” Love said. “I need that next to me. It inspires people. It helps people grow and helps them go fast as well.”
Baker said he appreciates Love’s knowledge of the game and his willingness to be part of a group at a position where many prefer to be left on their own island.
“Even though you’re isolated, you come together as one unit on the back end and you have to have that good chemistry with one another,” he said. “Everybody wants to see everyone do good. Having that relationship with everybody will take you a long way.”
How exactly the pair will fit together has yet to be determined. Baker is seen as a starting cornerback on the outside, but Love has the ability to play outside, in the slot, or even as free safety. He was at the latter spot for parts of this minicamp, a position he played only sparingly in college and mostly when his Notre Dame team played against the triple-option offenses of Army and Navy.
“They’re both very, very good players but they both do things just a little bit different,” Pat Shurmur said. “That’s a good thing.”
The two are among the younger players in the defensive backfield, which is a very young group to begin with. The Giants shed a good deal of veteran experience the past few months. Among their cornerbacks, Janoris Jenkins is the only established NFL starter. At safety, Michael Thomas and Antoine Bethea are two of the rare veterans.
That means there will be a lot of reliance on players such as Baker and Love to make immediate impacts. Individually and together.
“Football, it’s a special sport because you get that chemistry and that feeling between each other,” Love said. “It all works into each other. You need to have a cohesive secondary to be successful.”
That cohesion is starting now.
Notes & quotes: S Jacob Thineman and LB Nate Harvey, both signed as undrafted free agents, suffered non-contact knee injuries during the rookie minicamp. Shurmur said there will be further evaluation but they could require surgery . . . The minicamp wraps up on Sunday with “compressed” meetings and an early practice, a last chance for the tryouts to impress. “There have been some guys who have caught our attention,” Shurmur said. The Giants came into the camp with two spots open on their roster.