EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants today completed a trade with an eye toward the future, but Pat Shurmur said the team remains focused on succeeding this season.
One day after losing their fourth consecutive game, 23-20 in Atlanta, and falling to 1-6, the Giants sent starting cornerback and former first-round draft choice Eli Apple to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for a fourth-round draft choice in 2019 and a seventh-round selection in 2020, pending the completion of Apple's physical in New Orleans, where he is expected to arrive tonight.
Shurmur said B.W. Webb, who started the two games this season that Apple missed with a groin injury, will "be in the mix" to replace him in the starting lineup.
A reporter asked Shurmur if the trade sends a message to the team that the Giants are "throwing in the towel" on the season's final nine games, beginning Sunday at home against Washington.
"That's not the narrative – throwing in the towel," Shurmur said. "I think if you remember back, Eli was out with injury when we beat Houston. Then, B.W. Webb played in his spot against two fine receivers. We're not throwing in the towel. This will give an opportunity for some young players and newer players to have an opportunity to play. Plus, as we kind of look at this thing moving forward, we'll have a draft pick – actually two draft picks, one next year and certainly one in 2020, in value.
"We're trying to win every game we play, and we're doing what we can right now to win football games. But we're also always looking at the roster on a short-term and a long-term basis. We felt like it was good value. Eli has played well for us here this year. He's going to be a Saint now, and so we wish him well."
Asked about balancing short and long-term goals, Shurmur said, "There's no balancing act in my mind. I'm worried about the team today, and what we need to do to get ready to play Washington. There's no balance there, but I'm always a part of the discussions as we work to get the roster the way it's going to be this week, and certainly thinking about the future."
Apple, the 10th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, is the second recent first-round draft choice to leave the team in two weeks. Tackle Ereck Flowers, chosen ninth overall the previous year, was released on Oct. 9 and is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The moves might suggest that general manager Dave Gettleman and Shurmur – both in their first seasons on the job – are engineering an in-season roster rebuild.
"Trades happen, and we feel like maybe the answer (to filling the vacancy created by Apple's departure) is on our roster," Shurmur said. "We're going to let the guys that are here compete, and do what they can do to help us win a football game. Again, it's an easy comparison because Eli was hurt. I just mentioned that. Eli was hurt in the game that we won. Locker rooms have a way of moving past all this. Locker rooms have a way getting themselves right, and putting the next player in there, and you go out and play. I think that's the view we as coaches and players take."
Moments later, responding to a question about the team taking a "long-term view" with Eli Manning still playing quarterback, Shurmur said, "I didn't say we were taking a longer-term view. I said what we do is everything in our power to win each week. Everything in our power to win each week, but that's also certainly something Dave considers moving forward, and certainly I'm involved in those conversations – 'Okay, this is how we're going to do it.' As I mentioned earlier, we traded Eli (Apple) for a pick, but we're going to give the guys on our roster, who have played good football for us, an opportunity to go out and play."
Apple started all five games in which he played this season. He was inactive for the victory at Houston on Sept. 23 and the loss at Carolina a week later. Apple had 22 tackles (20 solo), five passes defensed and the fumble recovery. Last night in Atlanta, he had five solo tackles and recovered a fumble for the game's only takeaway.
"I think he was competing and doing good things," Shurmur said. "I think, much like all the players, there's a play or two each week you'd like to have back, but he was competing."
Webb, who joined the Giants as a free agent on March 19, is a five-year veteran and first-year Giant who has played in all seven games this season, starting three – two at corner for Apple and one as an extra defensive back. He has 18 tackles (15 solo) and three passes defensed. Last night he picked up his first career sack, a 12-yard takedown of Matt Ryan.
The other cornerbacks on the roster are starter Janoris Jenkins, Antonio Hamilton, Mike Jordan and Grant Haley, who made his NFL debut last night.
"(Webb has) competed well on the inside as well," Shurmur said. "I think that's where he's done good work here the last couple of weeks. He has value playing inside. We'll just have to see. We've got some guys that we'll slide in and see what they can do."
*Shurmur was asked about the offensive line "seemingly not been able to hit a stride and kind of be consistent or get better."
"We're trying to find the right combination of guys, and we all know the longer guys work together, the better they play together," Shurmur said. "(Jon) Halapio was playing really good ball when he got hurt (in Week 2), so we put in another center (John Greco). In order to get better play out of another position, we had to move a center and then put in another center and so what happens is I think as we can settle in on a group of guys, they'll continue to play better. Now there were stretches in the game where they played good football, but I would say there was also times when there would be an individual guy that would have a breakdown. I think that can be said for all offensive lines. There was times last night when the Atlanta offensive line struggled to block our guys and we sacked Matt Ryan a couple of times, so that happens.
"The challenge for us and, again, we move the ball for a lot of yards, we got down in the red zone. When we get in the red zone, we need to score points and I think then this changes and we need to score points earlier in the game. That's why I decided to go for it earlier in the game because I thought we were down there and it was important to do everything in our power to try to score points and some of the stuff then becomes overshadowed."