Daily Focus: Giants first-rounder Eli Apple could be a backup in 2016
Editor’s note: For this trial edition of “Daily Focus,” PFF founder Neil Hornsby took the latest NFL news and translated what it really means for each team involved. Like what you see or have suggestions for improvements? Let us know in the comments.
Giants CB Eli Apple possibly a backup in 2016: If early signs are anything to go by, the Giants’ No. 10 overall pick could spend a lot of time on the bench his rookie year. With Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and free-agent pickup Janoris Jenkins probably locked in as starting outside corners (neither played more than 35 snaps in the slot last year), the only path toward immediate playing time for Apple would likely be in the slot. Yet Jordan Raanan of the Newark Star-Ledger reported that Apple played exclusively on the outside at rookie minicamp.
It’s probably no surprise, given that Apple only played 14 snaps in the slot for Ohio State last year, and the Giants recently brought in ex-Bengal and slot corner specialist Leon Hall for a visit. It’s also worth noting that Trevin Wade manned the slot position quite well for the Giants last year. Given the anemic pass rush the Giants generated at times last season, Wade grading out as average (see grades chart below) should be considered a success.
There is also further reason to believe that Apple could take a while to see major playing time in the pros. Our PFF analysts ranked Apple as a late first-round pick, behind a trio of corners who were drafted later than him (William Jackson III, Vernon Hargreaves III and Mackensie Alexander), in part because of questions over his weaknesses playing off coverage in zone schemes. That made him a curious scheme fit for the Giants, who played man-to-man coverage just 30.4 percent of the time last year, just 21st in the league.
That’s not to say we don’t think Apple can develop into a good cornerback in the NFL, or even that the Giants won’t increase their usage of man coverage to cater to Apple’s strengths. But it does call into question how effective he can be for the team right away – something that appears to be backed up by how the team is using him in practice in the early going.
Dolphins extend Cameron Wake for two more years: In expected news, Miami signed PFF All-Pro pass rusher Wake through 2018. Wake was our second overall ranked edge rusher in 2014 (behind only the Chiefs’ Justin Houston), and after a slow start in 2015, was playing brilliantly again before injury struck in Week 8 at New England.
Many are seeing Wake as only a situational pass-rusher at this stage of his career (he is 34 years old). But with both Olivier Vernon and Derek Selby leaving in free agency — and the Dolphins doing nothing to help their pass rush at draft time, and only adding Mario Williams, the lowest-ranked edge defender in pass-rush grades in 2015, in free agency — that may be premature. The chart below shows just how reliant the Dolphins might be on Wake to generate pressure this season, given their other options:
(Note: The average NFL pressure percentage is 10.1.)
Chargers sign Matt Slauson … as a center: When the Bears released Slauson just after the draft, it came as something of a surprise to us at PFF. With Kyle Long struggling with his move to right tackle, Slauson was by some margin the best offensive lineman the Bears put on the field in 2015, despite rotating between guard and center himself. In a spectacular offseason for the Bears — both in free agency and the draft — it felt like an unnecessary move on their part.
For now, rather than speculate on Chicago’s motives, let’s see it more as a gain for San Diego. He provides a huge upgrade over what the Chargers got out of the center position last season:
San Diego has struggled to be even marginal at the center position since Nick Hardwick’s last full season in 2013. The Chargers’ grade last season was an all-time low for any team at the position, with Trevor Robinson and Chris Watt combining for an eye-wateringly bad combined grade of -61.5.
Rookie Charles Tapper to play right defensive end for Cowboys: In a recent radio interview with the “Norm and D Invasion” radio show, Dallas CEO Stephen Jones mentioned that fourth-round draftee Charles Tapper will play the right defensive end position (DRE) in the Cowboys’ scheme.
This is important, because with both edge rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory potentially suspended for the start of the season, the team will need to get edge rush from somewhere.
It’s also interesting because A.) Jones was specific about the right side – the side from which Tapper played 90 percent of his college snaps in 2015; and B.) Tapper played mostly 5-technique defensive end (inside the tackles) in the Sooners’ 3-4 base defense.
The good news, however, is that even though it was in a relatively small sample size, Tapper was more productive when playing outside the left tackle at the 7-technique edge-rushing position than he was at any other position, generating 17 QB pressures from only 92 rushes at that spot.