When the New York Giants drafted cornerback Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft it made perfect sense.

Apple was part of a national championship team at The Ohio State University. He didn’t get a ton of reps in college and was only three years removed from his high school graduating class. At the same time, Apple’s height, speed, and physicality wowed the Giants. Most important of all, he didn’t have any off-the-field issues that could be considered a distraction.

The Giants went 11-5 in Apple’s rookie season. Much of the spotlight was on Apple’s All-Pro mates in the secondary: Janoris Jenkins, Landon Collins, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. This season, the Giants are 2-12 and Apple is making headlines for all the wrong reasons with his play on the field and some of his conduct off it.

He was responsible for allowing 21 receptions on 30 targets for 234 yards and four touchdowns in the Giants’ first four games of the regular seasons. Apple also had two pass interference penalties called against him in that span. Because of this lack of production, Apple was benched for the first three defensive series of the Week 5 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

“I wasn’t happy,” Apple said after the Chargers loss. “To me, that’s what happens. You lose games and it’s got to be someone else’s problem and they look around and think, ‘OK, this is the problem.’ But it’s not just one guy – it’s the whole culture, it’s everything. We’ve got to fix it.”

After an embarrassing loss to the previously winless San Francisco 49ers in Week 10, former head coach Ben McAdoo had what he termed a “brutally honest” film session with the team. Apple was, in the words of the New York Post, “criticized more vociferously than any other player”. He reportedly threatened to leave the team but stayed after a talk with McAdoo.

Apple’s mother, Annie, had brain surgery two days after the film session and he was excused from the Week 11 win against the Kansas City Chiefs. When he returned to the team, it seemed as if they didn’t want him to play. Apple was inactive for four consecutive games, citing injury, a lack of practice time, and personal issues.

During the Week 14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Apple tweeted from the sidelines in violation of NFL rules. He was fined by the team for his use of social media during the game. Apple said he leans on veterans like Rodgers-Cromartie and wide receiver Brandon Marshall for support. Rodgers-Cromartie is on his fourth team in 10 NFL seasons while Marshall is on his fifth in 12 seasons. They are examples players with prodigious talent who wore out their welcomes on previous teams.

Collins also said he reached out to Apple, something Apple vehemently denied. The two players engaged in some public back and forth that interim head coach/defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo hopes “will all get worked out”.

Apple was reactivated for Sunday’s 34-29 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, playing in 60 of the Giants’ 68 defensive snaps. Although Apple is playing, it’s clear his performance and behavior throughout this season is rubbing his teammates the wrong way.

Collins made his feeling abundantly clear during an interview on The Michael Kay Show.

“I can’t tell you man. That’s a hard topic to speak on,” Collins said when asked if he believed his teammates were getting through to Apple. “As a player, he’s a great player. As a man, he has his ups and downs. But when he’s on the field, I think he’s trying to be as much accountable as he can.

“He understands, I think the business side of the game did it to him, because this game is not for long. And I think he finally understands that even if you’re a first-rounder, you can always be cut…look, we’re all grown men in there. He has to grow up. Mentor and raising are two different things. Right now, I feel like we’re doing one more than the other.”

It doesn’t a genius to figure out which one Collins was talking about.

Apple had nine tackles in the Eagles loss but in the end his performance on the field may not make a difference. He’s apparently burned bridges with his teammates, coaches, and management. The Giants are going to hire a new general manager and head coach who will make “wholesale changes” and clean house. This could mean Apple’s days as a Giant are numbered.

Apple said he wants to remain with the team. He would need to mend some of the fences broken throughout the season, if that’s at all possible. When players like Collins, one of the team’s stars and leaders, calls out a player’s maturity in the media it’s never a good sign. Apple is a talented player but it takes more than ability to succeed at the NFL level.

– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL and the New York Giants. Please like and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.

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