EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – In his second NFL game, New York Giants cornerback Eli Apple took a significant step forward in his development, looking the part of a top draft pick. Apple made a big play in the fourth quarter of a tight game that turned into a 16-13 win over the New Orleans Saints.
In the fourth quarter Apple rose up and at the last moment broke up a Drew Brees pass to Brandin Cooks on a deep route. It was perfection execution from Apple on the breakup to stay with the speedy Cooks, hang with him tight and then make the play at the very last moment. Had the Saints completed that deep pass the game’s outcome might well have been very different.
It was a veteran play from someone in just his second game in the league.
“I had a feeling he was going to do a deep route. That formation that they do is one of their favorite formations. He is a fast guy, he kind of got off the line a little clean,” Apple told Metro.“I wanted to stay on his hip. When his eyes got big – his eyes were really big the whole time – I tried to lean into him and read his eyes. Then turn back, then just make a play on the ball.”
The play was also big for Apple considering that the pass was thrown by Brees, arguably the best quarterback currently playing in the NFL.
“I think tackling wise it was OK, especially the first half they tried to do some crack blocks and expose the corner,” Apple said. He made adjustments in the second half that he says helped his performance.
Apple finished with seven tackles in the Saints game but it was the plays away from the camera when he wasn’t making hits that stood out. It was a big day for a player who selection by the Giants this past spring as the tenth overall selection in the NFL Draft was a shock. He justified the pick with his showing on Sunday.
Overall his coverage was good as he stayed with Cooks for much of the game. Apple showed consistency, not shocking given that he would up playing 59 or 62 snaps. Cooks had 68 receiving yards and was without a touchdown catch, a far cry from a week earlier when he had 143 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Yet despite the improvement from Week 1, Apple maintains that there is room for improvement.
“I think so, I know I’m definitely capable of communicating more with the guys. Every play, every play I need to focus on and correct stuff. Like at the end of the first half with my eyes, I had good initial coverage and then you sometimes drift a little bit. Things like that,” Apple said.
“[The game] definitely slowed down but Drew Brees, going against him, a Hall of Fame quarterback doesn’t make it easy.”