Carolina Panthers Player No. 4: Eli Apple (CB)
The Carolina Panthers might have brought in veteran cornerback Eli Apple to the franchise shortly after the 2020 NFL Draft. But there remain some serious doubts regarding his ability to produce the goods when it matters most.
It’s easy to forget that Apple was once the No. 10 overall pick. He has failed to reach this billing so far. And this is undoubtedly his last chance to prove himself as a starting-caliber corner in the NFL.
Apple will be pushed all the way during training camp for the No. 2 spot opposite Donte Jackson by Troy Pride Jr. The former Notre Dame star was the Panthers’ fourth-round selection. And although he is still a little raw, if he takes to the next level right away then Carolina is going to have a tremendous prospect on their hands.
There is no disputing Pride Jr.’s potential. But not having a preseason is going to hurt his attempts to get a starting role early on.
This is music to Apple’s ears. But if he becomes a starter as expected, he will need to raise his game significantly in order to stop Pride Jr. from breathing down his neck.
The Panthers appear confident that Apple can finally fulfill his potential. And there is plenty to like about the skills he brings to the table despite largely struggling since entering the league.
What comes next will ultimately come down to Apple. If he plays well, then a longer stay with the organization is not entirely out of the question. But another failed attempt at starting could see Pride Jr. enter the fray at the earliest possible opportunity.