Rookie Eli Apple turning heads at first minicamp

Posted Jun 15, 2016

Giants rookie cornerback Eli Apple has made a good impressions on the team's coaching staff: 

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – A simple question posed to Steve Spagnuolo today about the progress of Eli Apple reminded everyone the Giants are still getting accustomed to having more than one Eli in the house.

“It is funny that you have to add a last name to that now,” Spagnuolo, the team’s defensive coordinator, said. “I was yelling ‘Eli, Eli’ one day and number 10 was looking at me. I was like, ‘I’m not talking to you, I’m talking about Eli Apple.’”


Apple, the Giants’ first-round draft choice this year, probably won’t be a two-time Super Bowl MVP, and isn’t going to set team passing records like Eli Manning. But the talented cornerback from Ohio State should contribute as a rookie and for many years afterward.

Apple has performed impressively throughout the Giants’ spring drills, which conclude tomorrow with the end of the three-day minicamp.

“It has been pretty good,” Spagnuolo said. “He is still a rookie, so there has been a bit of a learning curve here. But I will say this, I do see a competitive guy there. I think that if you are going to play that position in this league, that is the first thing you have got to have. I think that some of the guys around him have gotten confident in him. He has made a lot of plays here. He has gone against Odell (Beckham Jr.) a couple times, and I guess the interesting question would be to ask Odell. Those guys usually have a better idea of the skills of the people they are going against, but we are pleased with his progress right now.”

Apple believes he has made significant strides in the two months since he was drafted.

“I definitely feel like a different player,” he said. “I have been progressing with the playbook and definitely getting better with my technique out there on the field, just getting a better feel for everybody else out there on the field and knowing where my help is, little things like that.”

Apple played on the outside in college. But because veterans Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins are expected to man those spots, Apple has been learning to play in the slot.

“It is definitely a different role, but I think that I am adjusting to it well,” Apple said. “Just asking a lot of questions and getting with the veterans. Getting with guys like Janoris and DRC, they have been very helpful. I am just trying to learn as much as possible and put myself in uncomfortable positions out there on the field so that I can get better.”


Asked why playing inside is so different, Apple said, “It is just that you have to communicate more. It is kind of like being a linebacker, really, just being in the middle of everything, you have to communicate and know where your leverage and help is, playing to your leverage, little things like that, and just a lot of communicating and blitzing, the little things that you have to get used to.”

Apple seemed particularly active in practice this morning, which Spagnuolo said provided good lessons for succeeding in the slot.

“I remember one (play) specifically down here in the red zone, but he has been doing that, he has been competing,” Spagnuolo said. “I know we had officials here today and I’m not sure they are throwing the yellow flag, maybe the holding. But what is interesting for a rookie, especially with that position, is when you get in the real game is the grabbing and tugging and some of that stuff you are not going to get away with. So I am always warning him about that. But at this point, I would rather see him compete and do whatever he has to do to win.”

Apple is aware that in games he must avoid the transgressions he gets away with in practice.

“You just have to work on your feet,” he said. “That is the main thing. Just making sure that you are watching yourself on film and try to get rid of the bad habits that you were doing in college. Whenever I am home, I am just doing little things with my feet and press technique, just trying to incorporate feet before hands.”

Apple will have no qualms about starting the season as the slot corner.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all,” he said. “I am open to everything, as long as I am out there contributing to the team. That is what I am trying to do.”

•  This offseason, the Giants added several standout defensive players – veterans and rookies – and Spagnuolo is confident the unit that ranked last in the NFL in 2015 will be much improved this year.

“They are done,” Spagnuolo said of the days of giving up points and late leads. “We are going to be better. We are going to be better because of players, we are going to be better because of better coaching, less mistakes. We are going to be better because it is the second year in the system and that is what we fully expect to do. Everything that we went through last year is over and we are moving on.”

•  Donte Deayon, a free agent cornerback from Boise State, intercepted a pass today and has been impressive throughout the spring. He has certainly caught Spagnuolo’s attention.

“He is 150 pounds or whatever, but I reminded him that power is mass times speed, so if he goes really fast, he is just as powerful as anyone,” Spagnuolo said. “He is a joy to work with. He made another big play down in the end zone today. He has been making plays all year. He loves football, he gets football, he has what I call the football ‘get-it’. He is really smart and he competes, so he’s got a chance, no question.”