Eli Apple

NFC Notes: Panthers, Peppers, Giants, Apple

The Panthers would like to have 37-year-old Julius Peppers back in the fold next year, as David Newton of ESPN.com writes.

I’d love for him to come back, absolutely,’’ head coach Ron Rivera said. “And I know we’ve managed him [in terms of practice time] and we’ll do whatever we need to. But it’s all up to him. He’s had a very good year. Who knows? Hopefully, we can keep it rolling.”

Peppers is playing out a one-year deal with a base value of $3.5MM that could reach up to $4.25MM with bonuses. Of course, his focus is currently on helping the Panthers advance in the playoffs.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • New Giants GM Dave Gettleman had a sit-down meeting with Eli Apple this week, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter). Schwartz takes this as a sign that Apple could still be in the team’s plans for 2018 and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com (on Twitter) agrees. However, that comes with the caveat that Apple shows increased maturity. If all goes right, both Apple and offensive lineman Ereck Flowers could be a part of the team moving forward.
  • The Cardinals are in town to interview Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz for their head coach opening today, a source tells Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer (on Twitter). First, Schwartz gets his shot in the afternoon, followed by DeFilippo in the evening.
  • The Packers want to talk to a key executive from the Ravens about their GM vacancy.

Giants Notes: Manning, Beckham, Apple, OL

Dave Gettleman met with media for the first time as Giants GM on Friday, and he addressed the Eli Manning situation. Working under Ernie Accorsi when Manning was selected and staying on through the Giants’ second 21st-century Super Bowl title in 2011, Gettleman looked to show some faith Manning has quality football left. The new GM said he expects Manning to start in 2018.

Eli’s won a lot of games,” Gettleman said, via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. “A great competitor, very intelligent. He and I are gonna talk and if what I saw in Philadelphia was not a mirage — and I don’t believe it is — we’ll keep moving.”

Saddled with one of the league’s worst offensive lines and ground attacks, Manning has not enjoyed a good season. But he threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns against the NFC’s No. 1 seed earlier this month. Manning’s only other 300-plus-yard game this season came against the Eagles as well. Gettleman, however, said the Manning situation wouldn’t affect a possible first-round quarterback pick and added the “as of now” caveat to his Manning-in-2018 remarks, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv.

Here’s the latest out of New York on a busy day for the franchise.

  • John Mara has not wavered on his Odell Beckham Jr. stance. Although the co-owner said he’s unsure when an extension will be discussed for the rehabbing superstar, he remains committed to the wideout long-term. “Let’s face it, players with his ability don’t come along very often. So, yes, I want him to be a part of this team’s future,” Mara said, via Kimberly Jones of NFL.com (on Twitter). Gettleman, however, wasn’t as firm on a Beckham deal. Although, the new GM’s hesitance on an “obviously extremely talented kid” was largely based on a lack of interactions with Beckham, Vacchiano tweets. Beckham’s headed into his fifth-year option season.
  • Giants ownership wanted to wait until after the season when they could talk to other GM candidates, but after meeting with Gettleman, Mara and Co. decided to proceed in order to be ready to conduct a head-coaching search after Week 17’s conclusion, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.
  • Eli Apple‘s status with the Giants may be in the murky-at-best category after his disastrous sophomore NFL season. But Mara isn’t ready to throw in the towel on the cornerback yet. “You don’t want to quit on talent,” Mara said, via Jones (on Twitter). “I happen to like him personally. I’m obviously disturbed with what’s happened this year. … I think we have to figure out what’s going on with him. But I’d like for him to be a part of this team’s future.” The Giants suspended Apple for Week 17, and a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson he would soon be done in New York. Apple is under contract through 2019, although this suspension makes that deal less binding.
  • Gettleman wasn’t vague about one area in need of repairs. The new Giants GM said the offensive lined needs to be fixed (Twitter link via Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com). Big Blue’s boasted one of the NFL’s worst fronts for the past two years, and both Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg are in line to be free agents — and two of the best available. Ereck Flowers has not lived up to the billing as a top-10 pick, but his contract is guaranteed through 2018. Last year’s O-line draft class was not viewed as strong; this one has received higher marks early in the pre-draft process.
  • Accorsi could well seek Bill Belichick‘s counsel regarding a potential hire, but Garafolo reports (video link) he’s heard nothing to suggest the Patriots coach is playing a role in the Giants’ HC search thus far. A report earlier today indicated some buzz about Belichick advising Accorsi to get the Giants to hire Eagles DC Jim Schwartz.

Contract Clause To Signal Apple’s Release?

On Wednesday, the Giants suspended second-year cornerback Eli Apple for conduct detrimental to the team. With the suspension, the team could have cleared the way to release the 2016 first-round pick without having to pay his contract guarantees for 2018 and 2019, ESPN’s Dan Graziano writesEli Apple (Vertical)

Graziano says Apple’s contract includes a clause that allows the team to void his guaranteed money if “among other things, ‘Player is suspended by the NFL or by the Club’ or ‘Player engages in conduct reasonably judged by the Club to adversely affect or reflect on Club, in Club’s sole discretion.'”

Graziano reports the Giants could then argue that they wouldn’t be on the hook for his guaranteed salaries of $1,827,484 in 2018 and $2,516,226 in 2019 if they were to release him.

To say this has been a roller-coaster ride for the Giants is an understatement. The team entered the 2017 season as Super Bowl contenders with one of the most promising secondaries in the league. It will end, however, with captain Landon Collins calling Apple a cancer and the team suspending the young corner for a series of events we detailed earlier in the day.

The writing appears to be on the wall for New York to cut ties with the No. 10 pick in last year’s draft at the end of the season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Suspend Eli Apple For Week 17

A historically tumultuous season for Giants cornerbacks will end with a third being suspended for a game. The Giants suspended Eli Apple for Week 17, the team announced.

This comes a day after Landon Collins publicly referred to the second-year corner as “a cancer.” Steve Spagnuolo met with Collins and Apple today in what was called a “really productive” summit, one that included a Collins apology. But the Giants banned Apple nonetheless. He received the news in a meeting with Spagnuolo and interim GM Kevin Abrams.

We have suspended Eli for a pattern of behavior that is conduct detrimental to the team,” Abrams said.

This pattern of behavior looks to have produced a final-straw moment Wednesday. ESPN.com’s Jordan Raanan and Dan Graziano report Apple argued with coaches, including cornerbacks coach Tim Walton, at practice. That argument looks to have been catalyzed by Apple’s refusal to take the field with the Giants’ scout team, Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com report (Twitter link). Apple was already arguing unspecified matters with coaches prior to refusing the scout-team assignment, Garofolo tweets. This wasn’t the first argument between Apple and Walton, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv (on Twitter).

Apple played only on special teams in Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, ceding his spot to less-heralded cogs — and first-year Giants — Brandon Dixon and Ross Cockrell. The Ohio State product started in seven games this season after opening with the first unit 11 times as a rookie. He finished with exactly the same amount of tackles as last season (49) and recovered two fumbles as well. Pro Football Focus slotted Apple as its No. 73 full-time corner this season, putting him fourth among Giants.

The Giants surprised many by taking Apple No. 10 overall in 2016, with Big Blue eschewing an offensive line need to take a corner in spite of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins‘ statuses. Now, Apple follows in their footsteps by incurring a one-game suspension. Ben McAdoo suspended the starting duo at different junctures this season before being fired.

Apple and Collins would not have shared the field this weekend because Collins is now out for the year due to injury. The defensive backs’ beef goes back to at least to a point earlier this month, when Collins had to be restrained from going after Apple inside the team facility. A report in November also indicated Apple nearly left the Giants’ facility because of a film-room session featuring harsh critiques from teammates and coaches. Apple’s mother also underwent brain surgery this fall, and the second-year defender was given time off because of it.

(Landon and I) had a quick conversation this morning and then I had a quick conversation with Eli,” Spagnuolo said about the aforementioned summit involving himself and the two at-odds defensive backs. “And then all three of us had a really good conversation and it was very productive and I’ll just leave it at that. It’s between them and they were really great.”

One of several Ohio State corners to be first-round picks in recent years, Apple is under contract through 2019.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Giants, Collins, Cutler, Jets

A day after referring to Eli Apple as “a cancer,” Landon Collins has attempted to walk that back. While that might be difficult, the All-Pro Giants safety issued an apology (on Twitter) today and confirmed he did so in person in a meeting with Apple and Steve Spagnuolo. The interim HC confirmed the meeting, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter).

I met with Coach Spags and Eli this morning and I apologized for the things I said yesterday,” Collins said. “I never stop supporting my brother/teammate Eli and the rest of my teammates as we move forward. Just want him to know I’m always here for him.”

On Tuesday during a radio interview, Collins said Apple “needs to grow up.” Wednesday’s apology marks the latest chapter in a weeks-long saga involving the two defensive backs. Earlier this month, Collins said he’d talked to Apple — who has taken a step back this season — and told media the cornerback’s issues were mental and that he was dealing with “significant” personal struggles. Apple then denied Collins spoke with him, and the third-year safety — according to NJ.com — had to be restrained by teammates as he attempted to confront the second-year corner. Apple has not been suspended like Janoris Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were, but he’s been benched and reportedly nearly left the Giants’ facility because of a harsh film-room session earlier this season.

Here’s the latest out of the Eastern divisions.

  • Josh McDaniels remains linked to Patriots exec Nick Caserio regarding GM/HC arrangements, but Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports the New England OC could also be interested in pairing up with Louis Riddick as a GM. Riddick interviewed for the Giants’ GM job last week, although Dave Gettleman is viewed as the favorite. McDaniels and Caserio were a sought-after tandem last year, with the 49ers having shown interest in bringing them to the Bay Area.
  • Adam Gase said Wednesday he has not spoken to Jay Cutler about him returning to the Dolphins in 2018, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Jackson adds the Dolphins remain committed to having Ryan Tannehill return as their starter next season, but he reported last week the Fins would be open to Cutler coming back as the backup. Cutler will start this weekend’s regular-season finale against the Bills.
  • Davis Webb will rise to the Giants‘ No. 2 quarterback role and take Geno Smith‘s place as Eli Manning‘s backup, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It will be the first time Webb suits up as an NFLer. Smith will be inactive Sunday, and Webb could see time off the bench in the game under the format Ben McAdoo broached with Manning upon benching him earlier this year. Spagnuolo, however, said (via Schwartz, on Twitter) there are “no guarantees” the third-round rookie makes his NFL debut against the Redskins.
  • The Jets are likely to land a pick in the lower part of the top 10, and Brian Costello of the New York Post ranked the most- to least-likely scenarios involving offseason quarterback plans. Most likely is a setup where the Jets draft Josh Allen with their first pick and re-sign Josh McCown to continue his better-than-expected stopgap work. Costello notes the Jets’ top competition for the Wyoming passer could be the BroncosJohn Elway trekked to the Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, last week to observe Allen in person. The Jets, though, have put in the most work on Allen to this point. Gang Green’s No. 2 scenario? Kirk Cousins, whom Costello recalls the team showing interest in after Smith was sucker-punched in 2015.

Collins Calls Eli Apple A “Cancer”

During an interview with ESPN Radio New York on Tuesday, Giants safety Landon Collins didn’t mince words about 2016 first-round pick Eli Apple when asked what changes he would make to the team’s secondary next season. Eli Apple (Vertical)

“There’s one corner that … he needs to grow up, and we all know who that is,” Collins said. “That would be the only person I would change out of our secondary group. The other two guys, [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] and [Janoris Jenkins], I love those guys. They play hard, they love what they do. But that first pick, I don’t think … he’s a cancer.”

There is little doubt the corner in question is Apple, who has rubbed teammates the wrong way with his effor. In November, the cornerback nearly walked out of the Giants facility because he received criticism for his play vs. San Francisco. Later, Collins told reporters he had discussions with Apple about improving his play, which Apple later denied to the press.

Apple still has two more years fully guaranteed on his contract, but when the team’s two-time Pro Bowl safety and leader in the clubhouse wants you gone, it’s hard to see a scenario in which Apple can return to the team. Both Jenkins and Rodgers-Cromartie are candidates for release or trade once the team hires a new general manager and head coach.

Apple has played in 11 games this season with New York, registering 49 tackles and eight passes defensed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Notes: Abrams, Apple, Shepard, JPP

The Giants interviewed interim general manager Kevin Abrams for the team’s full-time position yesterday, lengthening a list of candidates that already includes Giants VP of player personnel Marc Ross, former Giants executive Dave Gettleman and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick. While Abrams had spent the majority of his career as a salary cap guru, he’s focused on proving that he can also build a winning roster.

“My role has been more than just doing the cap stuff,” Abrams told Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.TV. “I wasn’t raised to be a cap guy. It was just the opportunity that was given to me and I was grateful of the opportunity. And the Giants do a great job with everyone — not just me, but we’re all encouraged to grow professionally. And like everyone else, I was getting a lot of opportunities to do that and I tried to take advantage of them whenever I could. A lot of that included being involved with our personnel departments.”

While Giants owner John Mara may be seeking major “wholesale changes,” sources told Vacchiano that Abrams is a serious candidate for the gig. The writer notes that the organization could choose to pair the interim general manager with someone like Gettleman.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from the Giants organization…

  • While many attributed cornerback Eli Apple‘s tumultuous season to immaturity, Dan Duggan of NJ.com explored the true root of the player’s issues. Ultimately, the reporter attributed the problems to “strife in Apple’s family,” particularly a falling out with his stepfather, Tim. “One of the biggest reasons Eli is declining so much this year as opposed to last year is (Tim’s absence),” Apple’s half-brother Dane Blackson said. “I know everyone always talks about the fame and all of the attention and how all of that can go to your head. But you have to imagine that from middle school to the NFL, Tim was there. Tim made this whole thing happen. Tim didn’t miss a game. Whenever Eli looked for that support, that was always there. Now, this year whenever he goes to look for support, it’s not real, it’s not genuine.” Duggan dug more in Apple’s family issues in a must-read article.
  • While the 2017 season hasn’t gone as planned for the Giants, one player has emerged as a major piece of the organization’s future. Zach Braziller of The New York Post writes that wideout Sterling Shepard has emerged as a “a future organizational linchpin.” The 2016 second-round pick is on pace to surpass his rookie numbers, as he’s hauled in 54 receptions for 686 yards and two scores. “I was ready to take it on,” Shepard said of the added responsibility. “You don’t expect for your top two receivers to go down. It kind of just throws a lot of weight on you. I’m a second-year player but kind of forced to take that leadership role because I’m the guy in that room with the most experience.”
  • Jason Pierre-Paul revealed that he’s recovering from a broken finger, although he expects to play this weekend against the Cardinals. Neil Best of Newsday.com believes the defensive end suffered the injury during his early-December matchup against the Raiders.

Criticism Nearly Caused Eli Apple Walkout

From a cornerback turbulence standpoint, the 2017 Giants are having one of the worst seasons in memory. Now, a third player appears to have been involved in an internal dust-up.

Following the one-game suspensions of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins earlier this season, Eli Apple was at odds with the Giants for a short period.

Apple, who has not been active for the past two Giants games, considered walking out of the team’s facility recently after pointed criticism came his way from coaches and teammates, Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reports.

A film session of Big Blue’s embarrassing loss in San Francisco led to harsh critiques coming Apple’s way, mostly regarding his effort level, per Schwartz. And the 2016 first-round pick “did not handle it well at all.” Schwartz reports Apple was so dismayed by this he twice said he was ready to walk out of the facility. A source informed Schwartz Apple endured harsher critiques than any other player in that meeting.

While a discussion with Ben McAdoo led to the second-year corner not creating a scene by leaving the building, Schwartz reports Apple’s recent actions played a part in the Giants deactivating him the past two weeks.

Apple did not report to the team facility for the next two days, but he was excused because his mother was undergoing brain surgery, Schwartz reports. McAdoo said the practice absences were the reason he wasn’t on the field against the Chiefs. The coach also said a lack of game-speed readiness, due to light practices on a short week, led to Apple being a healthy scratch against the Redskins.

Earlier this season, the Giants benched Apple for multiple series during a loss to the Chargers. After the game, the Ohio State product made comments about being the scapegoat for a Giants culture that needed repairing. Schwartz reports that comment did not register well with teammates or coaches.

Apple started 11 games for the Giants last season and seven in his second campaign.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Impact Rookies: New York Giants

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

General manager Jerry Reese went to the credit union often during the offseason, spending over $200MM to improve his team’s defensive front seven issues. But, despite some questionable purchases, the draft provided the team with two stud newcomers in cornerback Eli Apple and receiver Sterling Shepard, as both are expected to immediately contribute. Cooper Taylor’s tenure with New York could be coming to an end, especially if third round pick, Darian Thompson, is as good as he advertised during mini camp.

While Shepard is expected to at least earn a slot position, he could move outside if Victor Cruz continues to deal with injury issues. If Cruz fails to return to form, California free agent, Darius Powe, or off-the-field bad boy, Roger Lewis, might have a chance to secure the final receiver spot coming out of training camp.

First Round – Eli Apple , CB (Ohio State, No. 10 overall)

Our staff touted Eli Apple as the best cornerback in the draft not named Jalen Ramsey since Day One. We even provided our contracted teams with a very detailed statistical comparison chart that featured Apple, Ramsey, Mackensie Alexander, Vernon Hargreaves III, and William Jackson III. It seems Giants brass agreed, taking the Buckeye with the tenth pick. Eli Apple

The early first round surprise could be starting by the time the season opener rolls around, at least as the nickel corner. He’s likely to ease Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie off the roster after the season to take his place opposite high-priced Rams addition, Janoris Jenkins. The first thing you notice about this former Buckeye is his natural playmaking instincts. He understands how receivers are trying to attack coverage and he is a master at reading quarterbacks’ eyes when having to drop into zone coverage. He also does an excellent job of mid-pointing high-low routes.

Apple is an explosive, quick-twitch athlete with a sudden closing burst, especially when receivers catch the ball in front of him. He possesses that second gear needed to track the ball downfield and he’s fast enough to recover when gets caught out of position. Thanks to his fluid hips, he can make the smooth transition when forced to change directions quickly. When he stays under control and keeps his knees bent, is a good tackler in space.

The two-time letter-winner started all but one of the 28 games he has appeared in. As a redshirt freshman, he collected 53 tackles and broke up thirteen passes, as opposing quarterbacks often tried to challenge the first-time starter. Eight of those thirteen pass break-ups came on third-down snaps and all three of his interceptions were followed by Buckeyes touchdown drives during their 2014 national championship campaign.

The Buckeyes cornerback can consistently break up passes when in position, as he also has the athleticism to reach around the receiver and disrupt the action without committing the penalty. When he breaks up those passes, more often it is the result of violent hits right as the ball arrives. While not a valid ball thief, he does have the natural hands to reach out and pluck the ball to make the tough interception.

Teams were very leery to fire the ball into Apple’s territory in 2015, and he managed just 28 tackles, as a result. However, he impressed scouts with his outstanding coverage skills, as he not only defended nine passes (including one interception), but only 14-of-67 passes targeted in his area were completed (20.9%). He delivered twenty third-down stops, three more on fourth-down snaps. Proving to be one of the most physical cornerbacks in college, he jammed/rerouted his main pass coverage assignments away from 38 incomplete passes last season, the second-highest total in the NCAA FBS ranks. In short: the future is bright for the Giants’ first-round choice.

Continue reading about the Giants’ rookies..

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Extra Points: Bradford, Jets, Giants, Falcons, Lions

Given quarterback Sam Bradford‘s unhappiness in Philadelphia, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk examined the seemingly far-fetched possibility of the 28-year-old retiring – at least temporarily. Bradford would have to surrender the $11MM signing bonus he received from the Eagles earlier this offseason if he were to walk away, but he would offset that loss somewhat by avoiding any fines or forfeitures that would accompany a potential holdout.

The appeal of retiring from Bradford’s point of view is that he could wait for another team’s starting quarterback to suffer an injury, whether it be this year or in 2017, thus leading that club to approach the Eagles about a trade. It would be similar to the situation Carson Palmer found himself in five years ago as a disgruntled member of the Bengals. Early in the 2011 season, the Raiders lost starter Jason Campbell to an injury and then made a trade with the Bengals to bring Palmer out of his short-lived retirement.

Most teams’ starting quarterback situations are set right now, and the Eagles haven’t shown a willingness to move Bradford in the wake of trading up to No. 2 in the draft for Carson Wentz and signing Chase Daniel, so Florio opines that retirement could be his most sensible option.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • There was potential for a New York-New York trade in the first round of last week’s draft, according to the New York Daily News’ Gary Myers, who reports that the Jets offered their first- (20th overall) and second-rounders to the Giants for No. 10. The Jets had their sights set on Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, but the Giants didn’t want to move down and risk losing out on Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple. Had the Giants accepted the Jets’ offer, they would have either taken TCU wideout Josh Doctson or the best cornerback available (likely Houston’s William Jackson III) at No. 20, per Myers. Doctson ultimately went 22nd to Washington and Jackson landed with the Bengals two picks later. Meanwhile, instead of nabbing Tunsil, the Jets kept their top two picks and used them on Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee and Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
  • The Falcons are currently mulling whether to sign free agent cornerback Leon Hall, who visited them this week, reports Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. Hall would add depth to a Falcons defensive backfield in need of it, especially given the four-game suspension the league handed Jalen Collins, as McClure writes. The ex-Michigan standout’s entire NFL career has thus far been spent in Cincinnati, where he totaled 26 interceptions from 2007-15, though it doesn’t appear he’ll return to the Bengals. Aside from the Falcons, Hall has also visited the Giants, Cardinals and Cowboys this offseason, but his age (31) and injury history (he has torn both Achilles) are seemingly working against him in landing a contract.
  • With the draft in the books, Kyle Meinke of MLive.com took a look at six Lions veterans whose jobs could now be in jeopardy. Meinke points to quarterback Dan Orlovsky, center Travis Swanson, offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, defensive tackle Gabe Wright and long snapper Don Muhlbach as players who aren’t locks to remain in the Motor City.