It is hard to believe that Eli Apple will turn 23 years old this summer and that he will do so in the midst of what will be his third NFL training camp.
Apple has a mulligan, a chance to start over again under Shurmur, who has repeatedly commented about how the former first-round pick is getting a fresh look from the coaching staff. It was a difficult 2017 for Apple, who had struggles on and off the field and was at one point suspended by former head coach Ben McAdoo.
A bounce-back year from Apple is not only possible but certainly plausible as he showed solid coverage and good instincts in 2016 as a rookie.
A return to form for Apple would be key for a revamped Giants secondary, a unit that struggled last year giving up plays over the top. The fact that Shurmur is so emphatic in wanting Apple checked-in and fully engaged is certainly the right approach as the team goes through a roster makeover.
The message of a fresh start, Shurmur said, was made clear to Apple.
“I did with all the players and I think that’s important,” Shurmur said Monday as the Giants started Organized Team Activities (OTAs). “What you’re trying to do is inspire these guys to play at their best and I hear things, but I can’t truly say I know exactly what happened because I wasn’t here. But, I do know this, there are guys out here that are very prideful, they’re very professional and they want to do really good things and Eli is one of them.”
Shurmur went so far as to say that in terms of stature and skillset, Apple is in many ways his prototype at cornerback.
Perhaps Apple, after health concerns for his family were a distraction and then an alleged falling out with the last coaching staff, will be free in 2018 to get back to playing football. His individual ability on a wide receiver has been strong, as his ability to read and react in coverage.
Combine that with another year in the NFL spent getting bigger and stronger and Apple could be primed to take a step forward. After all, he already has two years in the league at an age when many cornerbacks are entering their first rookie minicamps.
“I’m sure glad that I truly believe in a clean slate,” Shurmur said. “[Apple has] been nothing but professional, he’s been out here competing, he’s one of the guys that has been here almost every single day and I haven’t seen anything that somebody might have thought I heard. He’s been great.”