Last year, CB Eli Apple, the New York Giants top pick in the NFL Draft, went through a season of ups and downs that included a tiff between his mother and ownership, a benching and a hamstring injury.
This spring, Apple comes into the Giants’ facility a little wiser but also managed to get faster and stronger over the past four months. He isn’t going full tilt at the team’s OTAs this week as he’s nursing a sore hamstring, but the same one that gave him trouble last season.
“I’m feeling well, feeling really good,” Apple told reporters on Friday. ” Just a little sore, just wanted to take a little precaution. Just sit back and slow things down. I don’t want to go in the offseason with anything crazy. Right now, I’m in a good place…Just my hamstring, just a little soreness, but it’s no big deal.”
Apple played in 14 games as a rookie last year, starting 11. He recorded 49 total tackles with one INT, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed. This year, he’s penciled in as the Giants’ left cornerback, across the field from Pro Bowler Janoris Jenkins and ahead of another Pro Bowler, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Apple was known for his physical approach to the game at Ohio State and showed many of those traits as a rookie with the Giants. Apple was not known, however, to be a fleet, top cover guy and on occasions proved his critics right there as well. He knew he had work to do this offseason if he was going to follow in the footsteps of teammate Landon Collins, who also had a trying rookie season and then emerged as an All-Pro safety in his second year.
“I’ve been lifting a little bit,” Apple said. “I think I put on a good 10 pounds since the season ended. I’ve been working, just a little bit.”
Apple said he has gone from from 194 pounds up to 204 without losing any foot speed in the process, according to the Giants’ nouveau training measurement tools.
“We have these things, these little GPS on the back of our jerseys, so can they track our speed and they said that the last practice I was out here for was the fastest I’ve ever moved since I’ve been here. So I’m getting a little faster.”
That will go a long way towards his improvement this year. That and the fact that everything isn’t so new to him. The culture change from BMOC at Columbus to low man on the totem pole in East Rutherford is behind him now. His approach to year two is a much more mature one.
“Just being comfortable, I’d say,” he said in citing the main difference. “Also, always being in rhythm just mentally, always making sure I have a perfect routine and sticking it to it. That’s one thing I want to make I sure I do this year.”
Things have surely slowed down for Apple here in 2017. The 10th overall pick in last year’s draft is ready to live up to his pedigree but just being comfortable is a huge start.
“That’s probably that biggest difference, being able to see everything before it happens on the field,” he said. “Being able to communicate more with teammates, like the defensive ends and linebackers, because you have to make a lot of calls in this defense. I feel like I’m ten times ahead of where I was last year with that. It’s always going to be stuff to learn, so I’m just going to try to continue to learn.”
The Giants are hoping he can make a Collins-like jump this summer. That would give the Giants four Pro Bowl talents in their secondary. Not too shabby.