A key goal for cornerback Eli Apple this offseason was to build strength to become more of a physical defensive back.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Odell Beckham, Jr. always looks like he's having more fun than any other player at practice. Whether he's sprinting down the field after catching a short pass, bantering with his teammates, or dancing to the music played throughout every workout, no one enjoys himself more than OBJ.
But an exception exists to almost every rule, and did for a few moments in one recent training camp practice, Beckham was not smiling. He didn't care for the way cornerback Eli Apple was covering him, and after an incomplete pass in the end zone, the two players exchanged shoves.
It was all soon forgotten, but the incident demonstrated that Apple's plan to be more physical this season is coming to fruition. At 201, he weighs about five pounds more than he did as a rookie in 2016, and that gain will help him muscle up to receivers. Beckham likely won't be the first wideout who won't care for it.
"I think I'm right where I need to be," Apple said. "I still have a lot of progress to continue to make. As far as continuing to stay on top of my grind, the stuff I put in my body and taking care of stuff off the field, and making sure my body is always in tip-top shape."
Because he is stronger, Apple wants to ensure he is as physical as possible within the limits allowed by the rules.
"That's what we're taught," Apple said. "As DBs, we want to make it as hard as possible on the offense. Especially with a timing offense like ours during practice. So, with us, we've got to get our hands on them and stop the offense because they're always on a clock to get the ball to the best guys. That's Odell, Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard. So, if we can disrupt the timing, it makes our job a lot easier, for sure, on defense."
Those three outstanding receivers test cornerbacks Janoris Jenkins, Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and Apple each day. Those practice encounters help improve each of those players.
"I think playing DB is definitely the hardest position, to me, outside of quarterback," Apple said. "It's just, once again like I said, finding that balance of being handsy, not too handsy, but to the point where you're disrupting the timing."
Apple admits that is a reversal of what he focused on last year, when he was trying to learn basic coverage techniques as taught by the Giants coaches.
"Every year is a new challenge for sure," he said.
Apple didn't practice today, after bruising his ankle in the previous workout on Tuesday, when he, "just got kicked a little bit going against some of the receivers in practice." He doesn't know if he will play in the Giants' second preseason game, Monday night in Cleveland.
Like most starters, Apple played only briefly in the opener last week vs. Pittsburgh. But he saw enough to get a good feeling about the defense.
"I think we did as well as we could have with the stuff that we were presented with – the plays and all of that were kind of vanilla," Apple said. "But it was just about running fast and hitting hard and making all the necessary checks and stuff, and I think we did that."
The Giants don't usually tackle in practice, but Apple said that doesn't preclude him from gauging his physicality.
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"(I do it) by looking at the film on some of the stuff you go through in practice," he said. "I know coach (Ben) McAdoo does a great job of putting us in uncomfortable situations on the practice field, and I think as a defense, we related pretty well to that. I think I have as well. It's just about continuing to stay on top of my grind and get better every day."