It didn’t take long for Eli Apple to be right in the middle of the action.
The first-round pick was with the first team for the first full-team snap of the Giants’ first OTA of the offseason Monday. Naturally, the first play came right at him, a pass from Eli Manning to Dwayne Harris.
“I guess they were trying to pick on me a little bit,” Apple said with a grin after the workout. “ checked a couple of other plays, too, I noticed. But you just have to be ready for anything out there.”
Apple was. He was able to break up a couple of passes on the outside and even moved inside to the slot, where he is expected to see most of his time on the field this season.
With projected starter Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie not in attendance at the voluntary workout, Apple was bumped up with the starters. It was hard not to notice the first-rounder, even though Manning said he did not. He also denied targeting anyone.
“That wasn’t the intention,” he said, adding that he was just reading coverages and going through his progressions.
Still, Apple got quite the workout, whether by design or not. That’s life for NFL rookies now, especially high-round picks. They used to ease into the waters of pro football. Now they are dunked.
“The offseason got a lot shorter and I think you need to be aggressive with young players and put them out there and see what they can do and see how they handle being in a pressure situation and see if they’ll respond,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “I think you may have to push some guys into some situations that are uncomfortable and find out who’s comfortable being uncomfortable.”
McAdoo said he needed to watch video of the practice before determining where Apple landed on that uncomfortable spectrum. But the 20-year-old rookie thought he did well. Even in the slot, a position he said will be a “challenging transition” for him after spending his Ohio State career on the outside.
“The physical part is there for me. It’s just mentally being there and making sure I’m communicating with the guys and being on top of my stuff,” he said.
Apple even got to line up against Odell Beckham Jr. a handful of times in the practice, something he’s been looking forward to doing since the Giants drafted him. The ball never came in their direction, however.
No one can say where Apple will line up in the opener in 3 1⁄2 months, whether he will be a starter on the outside or play in sub packages, or whether he will play at all. But on the first day of practice with the entire team, he was thrust into a role larger than expected. That could help him down the road.
“There is definitely a big difference between a first-team receiver and a third-team guy,” Apple said. “But everybody is pretty good, everybody will give you something different. You just have to make sure you are on top of your technique.”
DRC not at OTA. The OTAs are voluntary, but Rodgers-Cromartie’s absence was conspicuous. The Giants invested heavily in the cornerback position, signing Janoris Jenkins and drafting Apple, and they hope to use them with a healthy DRC as a three-man group.
“We want all of our guys here,” McAdoo said. “We feel it’s important to developing the team and building fundamentals and working on communication, and we can’t wait to get DRC back.”
McAdoo would not say whether he had heard from Rodgers-Cromartie or if there was any reason given for not attending the workout.
“If he’s here, we’ll coach him,” McAdoo said. “If he’s not, we wish him nothing but the best.”