Giants cornerback Eli Apple maturing after troubled season
A bad attitude led to a suspension for the final game of the 2017 season and a couple of benchings earlier in the campaign has been replaced by a business-like approach.
That's rapid progression for a soon-to-be 23-year-old who appeared to have worn out his welcome two years after the Giants drafted him with the 10th pick overall.
The change didn't just come. It's been coming since Pat Shurmur was named coach and Dave Gettleman took as general manager. They met with Apple after a 3-13 season and told him he would be starting with a clean slate.
''It is definitely important for me, first impressions,'' Apple said. ''I just wanted to show that I was a hard worker and just continue to show that even now as we continue to go on with these practices, staying on top of that and trying to get better every day.''
Apple is going to be a key piece for the Giants in James Bettcher's 3-4 system. He has the talent to be a lock-down cornerback, which would give the Giants two. Janoris Jenkins is on the other side of the field.
''They have a lot of confidence in me,'' Apple said of the coaching staff. ''They told me that they feel I am a really good player and as long as I listen to them, I can get better and become a Pro Bowl player. I see that as well. With my athleticism, I see myself, especially in this defense, I see myself as excelling in it and I am looking forward to the season.is''
Apple started 11 of 14 games as a rookie and finished with two interceptions, 49 tackles, and a fumble recovery, playing on a team that went 11-5 and earned a playoff berth. Last year was a horror. He started seven of 11 games, didn't have an interception, and was suspended for the final game of the season for getting into an argument with coaches about playing on a scout team. The Giants called it conduct detrimental to the team.
Safety Landon Collins didn't hesitate to say last season that Apple needed to grow up.
Apple won't say what caused the turnaround, but it's obvious something has changed.
On the field now, Apple is all smiles and ready to work. The former Ohio State product frequently goes over to Jenkins and picks his brain.
''Like when I see Jackrabbit make a play on the other side, I think to myself, `OK, it's time for me to make a play if the quarterback comes my way,''' Apple said of Jenkins. ''But it's always fitting that I'm trying to pick his brain because he was All-Pro, Pro Bowl corner, so he's definitely one of the best in the game. So, if I can learn as much as I can from him, that'll make me a better player.''
Apple also is taking no downs off. Early in Saturday's workout, he hounded first-year receiver Amba Etta-Tawo on a pass over the middle. Later on the Giants' first day in pads, he gave second-overall draft pick Saquon Barkley a good bump on a running back.
Shurmur certainly has been impressed by the new version of Apple.
''With my eyes, just a few months into this, I'm seeing a guy that's all about his business,'' Shurmur said. ''He is very business-like and he is covering really well, which is a good attribute for a corner. I like the way he is working. He's out there challenging but he is also being smart. Based on what I have seen, there are very few mistakes that he is making when we move the coverage around and I like the way he is functioning in the building.''
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