Possibly one of the most polarizing players for the New Orleans Saints was cornerback, Eli Apple. But polarizing comes with the territory for all players in an NFL secondary. The only times any of them get mentioned are either when they make an incredible play or get beat. The typical pass completions or breakups are just white noise in football.
Removing emotion from the equation, the numbers tell a tale of an efficient performance in 2019 for Apple. In coverage, he had a ranking of 59.1. While not ideal, he more than made up for that with a 74.7 tackling rank and a staggering 81.2 rank against the run. Apple was also an instrumental cog in a defense that stepped up big during the 5-game gap without Drew Brees at the helm, a gap that during which, the Saints would end up going 5-0.
The eye test would also suggest Apple had a successful season overall in 2019. Apple and teammate Marshon Lattimore seem to have developed a chemistry that had been missing from the Saints secondary prior to his arrival last year.
While the Saints were rolling heading into the playoffs, Apple would end up suffering an ankle injury in week 16 against the Titans. Apple would not return for the season finale, a victory against the Carolina Panthers or the wild card round of the playoffs, a loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Saints would end up filling that void by signing New York Giants free agent, Janoris Jenkins. Apple had also tweaked his knee earlier in the season in week 7 against the Bears.
Eli Apple enters the 2020 off-season as an unrestricted free agent. While only 25-years old, it would seem Apple still has plenty of football to play. But whether the Saints choose to use Jenkins as a more permanent replacement for Apple, select a cornerback high in the 2020 NFL Draft or become enamored by a free agent remains to be seen.
In a poll run on Twitter, this is how the fans saw Eli Apple’s 2019 performance:
Poll question:— John Butler (@Saintjohnbutler) January 10, 2020
How would you grade Eli Apple’s 2019 season? Feel free to comment why you chose the grade you did.
Some fan comments included:
Still panics when he’s beat, and he tends to take a mental beating when that happens. Prone to bad games, but overall a good CB2 in the right game plan, especially when he knows his safeties are there to help!
C. His play early in the season warranted him a B. But,towards the end of the season while he started getting burned more and more to the point where him getting burned seemed more likely than him stopping the play.
I’d say B- He had a lot of penalties called against him, he tends to panic some and lose confidence in himself. He’s definitely not a lock down corner, but he was holding his own for the most part until the injury.
C+. He’s like the Jameis Winston of cornerbacks. Spectacular successes and failures.
I’d give him a B, he played a much stronger overall season than we tend to remember, especially filling in for Lattimore as CB1. He struggled late but the whole secondary shared that & we’ve come so far since the days of Browner that we had the luxury to criticize decent CB play.