Good news for Eli Apple: He wasn’t benched after all.
So said defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Thursday when asked about sitting the cornerback who had started the first three games of the season, played most of the fourth, and then did not get on the field until the fourth series of last week’s game against the Chargers.
“That was more of a compliment to Ross [Cockrell] and what he’s been doing,” Spagnuolo said. “Ross has been out here working. We see it, we noticed it, so we wanted to get guys in rotations and we rotated the guys right through. Probably the same thing will happen in this game.”
It wasn’t much of a rotation. Once Apple came back in the game for the fourth series, he pretty much stayed in there. Which is why Apple — and just about everyone else but Spagnuolo — interpreted it as being benched due to lack of production. Teams had been targeting Apple in the first four weeks of the season and he was not always responding with success.
Apple was not happy with the situation after the game, complaining about his diminished role. It even led to Apple feeling like he was being scapegoated for the defensive lapses and lashing out at the team’s “culture,” a quote that has been used many times this week to back up the picture of a team in chaos with the suspension of fellow cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the 0-5 start.
“We’ve talked and everything’s fine,” Spagnuolo said of Apple. “We’re going to need these guys to play. There are going to be guys playing and not playing all the way through the year. That’s not going to change.”