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Giants rookie Eli Apple returns to face tough test in Jets

Eli Apple of the Giants covers Darrius Powe

Eli Apple of the Giants covers Darrius Powe during practice on August 23, 2016. Credit: George McNish

Eli Apple may find himself lined up against Brandon Marshall in Saturday’s preseason game against the Jets. If so, he’ll be thinking of someone else.

The Giants’ first-round pick said this week that he’s using his reps against Marshall to prepare for a potential matchup with Dez Bryant in the Sept. 11 regular-season opener in Dallas.

“We play the Cowboys the first game and they’re similar,” Apple said. “Marshall and Dez Bryant are similar when it comes to their physical traits. It’s definitely going to be a good challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it’.”

Apple has not taken a lot of reps in the preseason. He played 19 snaps in the game against the Dolphins before injuring his knee then missed the Bills game. He returned this week, and Ben McAdoo said he is expected to play on Saturday.

“I want to play well,” Apple said. “I want to help the team win. That’s the biggest thing. We have to get a W.”

The Giants’ coaches have been impressed by Apple. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said he has developed “quicker than maybe we expected.”

“I know always when you are drafted in the first round the expectations are way up here, and sometimes I think they are unfair, but when he stepped in for that first day it was pretty evident he could handle what comes with that,” Spagnuolo said. “We have to get into the game and he has some good receivers that he has to go against, but I like the way he is developing right now.”

Safeties coach David Merritt took it a step forward, projecting Apple’s place in the future.

“He has played in the big games [at Ohio State] and he is up here now going against NFL caliber players,” Merritt said. “I truly believe that this kid is going to be one of the great ones for us down the road.”

First, though, Brandon Marshall. And Dez Bryant.

“I’m proud of myself on picking up the playbook,” Apple said. “I don’t think I’m making too many mental mistakes. I just want to play fast out there. That’s the main thing for me. We’ll see come Saturday how my development has been. That’s something I definitely want to show to everyone.”

New York Sports