There is little doubt that the hardest job on any opposing defense that faces the Giants is having to cover Odell Beckham Jr. For a cornerback, that can make for a very long day.
Or in Eli Apple’s case, a long month.
The second-year cornerback has been charged with taking on the team’s — and probably the NFL’s — best playmaker so far in training camp. And while Beckham has made his share of catches, Apple has held his own.
“It’s very helpful,” Apple said Wednesday of not only covering Beckham but picking his brain between snaps. “He knows what corners do to try to stop him and he’s trying to help me do that. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I’ve been doing a little better because he’s telling me his weaknesses and I’m able to pick up on that a little bit.”
Teammates have noticed the change in Apple from his rookie season.
“Just the way he brings his knowledge to the game now that he understands and he sees it faster,” said safety Landon Collins, who himself made a jump from overwhelmed rookie to All-Pro in his second season. “He’s two steps ahead before the play goes and he’s understanding. He’s not having his hands up, and that’s the best part. He’s looking in and he’s contributing.”
Covering Beckham adds to that.
“It’s a game of confidence and I think Eli is out there with some confidence right now,” head coach Ben McAdoo said. “He has a ways to go fundamentally and he works hard at it each and every day. And 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. His confidence is going up and he’s a big, physical player and he’s playing to that.”
McAdoo said Apple covering Beckham is not by design. At some points this summer, he’ll also go up against Brandon Marshall, who largely has fallen to Janoris Jenkins so far.
Until then, Apple is soaking up as much from the experience of covering Beckham as he can. The best advice Beckham has given, Apple said, is to not be over-aggressive, but be aggressive enough that he is not comfortable in his route.
That came into play on Tuesday when Apple broke up a pass from Eli Manning to Beckham on the sideline.
“That was a play I don’t think I was supposed to make,” Apple said. “It was a great throw to get the ball over the top of [safety Darian Thompson underneath] and I kind of came in late and luckily I got my hand inside and was able to rip the ball out. That was kind of a lucky play on my part, but I ended up making it.”
A wrong place at the right time kind of deal.
The fans appreciated it, too, as soon as they caught their breath from the collective gasp of seeing Beckham go down to the ground following the collision.
“That happens,” Apple said. “I was just trying to go for the ball. But we can’t have that happen. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Still, it was memorable.
“That,” Apple said, “was one of my favorite plays so far.”