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Saints 2018 Year in Review: Eli Apple

The Saints mid-season trade for Eli Apple helped struggling secondary immensely.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Before the trade deadline, the New Orleans Saints sent a fourth-round pick and a 2020 seventh-round pick in return for former 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft pick Eli Apple. It was viewed as a gamble because of Apple’s struggles in New York, but the Saints were hoping a change of scenery would help both sides.

In two years with the Giants, Apple only had one interception and a broken relationship with a few members in the locker room, most memorable was Landon Collins. After the Saints acquired him, Collins called Apple a “cancer”, Apple fit right into the Saints locker room and we saw instant flashes of his Ohio State days. Apple was a low-risk gamble for the Saints, but it was one they had to take because of the Ken Crawley’s struggles they that cause them to need help on the back end.

Playing under Saints defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn gave Apple new life, confidence, and a reason to play. Apple went from starting on a 1-6 team one day to being on a Super Bowl contender the next. You could argue that Apple helped salvage the Saints secondary season, as they were playing at a very mediocre level before Apple. He had to learn on the fly and performed well, improving week by week.

Upon arriving to the Saints, Apple had 10 pass break ups and two interceptions in his first 12 games (two playoff games) with the Saints. His current contract is very affordable for the team as well, as he is currently playing on his rookie deal from 2016 NFL draft. His 2019 cap hit is $2,516,225 million, which includes a fifth-year option for the 2020 season. He would be a free agent in 2021 if the Saints picked up his option.

Apple is 23 years old right now coming up on his 24th birthday this season, and being so young he still has time to develop alongside the Saints young secondary. Patrick Robinson is the only base starting DB who is over 24 years old, Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams, Marshon Lattimore and Eli Apple are all under 24 years old entering this season.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints The Advertiser-USA TODAY NETWORK

Eli Apple - The Numbers (Pro Football Focus)

  • PFF Rank: 73
  • Overall Grade: 65.0
  • Coverage Grade: 64.2
  • Run Defense Grade: 59.5
  • Total Snaps: 1,022

Eli Apple is a key piece to the Saints talented young defense and is a good side kick to Marshon Lattimore. The Saints are in win-now mode, and need Apple to keep improving and growing. His play this season was good not great, but it showed flashes of great play. With a full offseason with the team, Apple could have a breakout season due to a full year with his new squad under his belt.