The Giants kicked off their rookie minicamp, last week, which allowed new head coach Ben McAdoo to finally get his hands on his maiden class as Big Blue’s new lead man.
Every rookie who was drafted by the Giants, and over a dozen more undrafted players who were brought in to compete, went through a weekend’s worth of on-field drills and classroom preparation.
Led by first-round pick Eli Apple, the newbies met the press and got a brief synopsis of what it’s like to be a player in this market.
Apple, a New Jersey product by way of Voorhees, was already accustomed to life in a big market. He noted that he’s been preparing for this moment most of his life, thanks to his mom Annie Apple, who’s become an Internet sensation due to her very entertaining Twitter account (@SurvivinAmerica).
The former Ohio State product joked that he’s more than happy to allow his mom to be the Internet star, while he’ll just let his on-field play do the talking.
“I have no problem with that [her being in the spotlight] at all. If she wants the whole spotlight, she can have it. It doesn’t make a difference to me. It does not surprise me [that she’s become a hit] one bit. I kind of expected it … I know how she is and I know her personality on Twitter and out in public. I’m fine with it. It’s nothing surprising at all,” Apple said, adding all he cares about is earning the respect and confidence of his new teammates. “We’re big on earning things and not just going out and doing the most flashy stuff. She always kept me humble growing up.”
Apple will get his chance to get humbled by veterans and newcomers alike. He knows that being the team’s number one pick will put a target on his back. Second round pick Sterling Shepard admitted as much when he said he’s “looking forward to competing with” and testing the No. 10 pick.
The Giants secondary as a whole will be tested a lot during the offseason programs. The more phases of programs that are scheduled, the more times teams are allowed to undergo actual team drills and be able to hold team-oriented competition. General manager Jerry Reese filled holes on the roster with solid, if not unspectacular, picks. But with only two defensive backs selected (Apple and safety Darian Thompson), there’s still work to do.
The Chicago Bears released safety Antrel Rolle, last week. And while the former Giants captain welcomes a reunion, it seems unlikely. Reese gave no indication that the Giants will even reach out to Rolle, so it looks like any additional reinforcements in the secondary will come from street free agents, or young vets already on the roster.
Guys like Nat Berhe, Bennett Jackson, and Mykkele Thompson all missed either the entire 2015-16 season or a huge chunk of it, so with their returns and the pending battle to see who plays alongside Landon Collins at safety, it looks like Rolle will not be a part of Big Blue’s plans.
Apple will slide right into the nickelback position when the Giants employ five defensive backs. The former Buckeye acknowledged that it’d be a change for him, but is up for the challenge.
“I’m learning a little bit of everything. I know it’ll be different. It’s a lot different from playing on the outside because the outside is a little bit more simple. Inside, you have to communicate a little bit more and just know a little bit of what everybody else is doing. It is going to be a little bit of transition, but I’m looking forward to it,” Apple said, noting the thick playbook. “It’s a little bit more studying. Learning different techniques from playing outside, so you’ve just got to learn it and try to rep it as much as possible … I’ve had a couple of meetings so far and I’m just looking at everything.”
Being a prized collegiate cover corner who teams never really targeted, as well as a safety who was allowed to roam the secondary and basically pick his spots when to gamble will no longer be a luxury for either rookie.
But for defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, he feels confident that both Apple and Thompson will be able to pick up his system quickly and be immediate impact players.
“Eli is one of those guys that I think there’s a lot of hidden production because he is kind of a press corner and they play real tight in some matchup coverages there at Ohio State. There were a lot of times that they don’t throw the ball over there, and that’s a good trait,” Spagnuolo said of Apple, adding he’ also excited that they drafted Thompson. “He [Thompson] has been out here barking out [orders]. He’s loud and not afraid to make a mistake. That’s stuck out a little bit … But it’s really early in the process. We’ve got a long way to go. But we’ve got some guys that are good football players – very versatile young men, and that’s a bonus.”
Big Blue notes:
- Former defensive end Justin Tuck finalized his retirement, Friday, having signed a one-day contract to leave the game with the same team that drafted him in 2005. Tuck said he’ll still remain in the area as he takes MBA courses at nearby Wharton. And during that time, he’ll be around the facilities whenever he has free time, hoping he sees a reversal of fortune for Big Blue: “I’m tired of what I’ve seen from the Giants the last two years, three years, and I was a part of it,” he said of the consecutive losing seasons. “Maybe I faltered in my ways of being a better leader and allowed some things to go on that didn’t necessarily have to go on. But I say this, I am super excited about what’s next. I’m super excited about what I’ve seen from this young group of guys.”
- The weekend featured signings of most of the team’s six draft picks. Apple was the first of four Giants’ draft choices to sign contracts. He was joined by Shepard (second round), running back Paul Perkins (fifth), and tight end Jerell Adams (sixth). Any other unsigned Giant rookies had to sign waivers before participating on the field.