The Denver Broncos’ secondary owns the title of the “No Fly Zone,” but it’s not the only unit that can lock down opponents. The New York Giants can also brag about a stifling secondary that makes life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
Most media outlets are very high on the Giants this season, and not just because of quarterback Eli Manning and co., but because of a defense that is stout at every level. The pass rush gets the most press, though, but cornerback Eli Apple is quick to warn people to not sleep on his mates in the secondary.
He likes that the defense is getting more publicity lately, but added there’s still so much to prove.
“It [recognition] is cool. But we just know we’ve got to put the work in. Nothing’s going to be given to us at all, [so] all that stuff doesn’t really mean anything,” Apple said. “We’ve got to just go out and prove to everybody and ourselves that we’re a top defense … Me, personally, I expect big things out of myself.”
The secondary, in particular, has its share of impact players.
The second-year Apple has high personal aspirations to match his expectations of the overall defense. The 10th overall pick in the 2016 National Football League draft, the former Ohio State University star thinks he can be the best at his position. But even if he’s not considered so, he’s happy being a part of a secondary room that is elite in its own right.
“I think so,” Apple said when asked if he thought he could soon surpass Janoris Jenkins as the team’s No. 1 cornerback. “But I think we’re all No. 1 corners. Even DRC [Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie] being an older guy, I think he’s still got a lot left.”
It also helps the Giants’ secondary that they get to face Manning and wideouts like Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard, as well as rookie tight end Evan Engram on a daily basis.
Apple has often been lined up against Beckham for most of live drills in training camp and has held his own. He did get beat a couple times in practice, today, but that’s going to happen when you face elite receivers on a play-by-play basis.
One play of note in Thursday’s session was a red zone drill against Marshall. Manning lofted a perfect ball and Marshall simply out-jumped Apple to pull in the touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Marshall, a six-time Pro Bowler, has three inches on Apple, who at 6-foot-1 and 199 pounds is no slight cornerback.
But those kind of learning experiences will only boost Apple, and in turn, boost the overall excellence of the secondary.
“We all make each other better,” Apple said. “We’re getting there. I think as a team we’re feeling really confident [and] just kind of building off of what we had last year. And I think just with the group of guys that we got and the new guys coming in, too, we’ve got something real special. It’s just about putting the work in now.”
Head coach Ben McAdoo has noticed a change in Apple from his rookie year to this year, and is expecting big things from him, as well as the secondary as a whole.
“This is a game of confidence and I think Eli is out there with some confidence right now,” said McAdoo. “He has a ways to go fundamentally … [but] you can see him taking what he learns in the film room over to the practice field and he’s competing against some pretty good players out there and he enjoys that, he likes it.”
All-Pro safety Landon Collins has also noticed the marked difference in a secondary that doesn’t really have many weaknesses to begin with, noting the unit is already working well in unison.
“We don’t make any mistakes,” Collins said. “That’s the biggest thing. We complement each other so well.”
The defense as a whole complements each other so well – and that’s the sign of championship-winning football.