Carolina Panthers: Eli Apple embracing challenge of last chance saloon

(Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images) Eli Apple
(Photo by Will Vragovic/Getty Images) Eli Apple /

Carolina Panthers’ cornerback Eli Apple is embracing the challenge as he prepares to enter the last chance saloon from a starting perspective in 2020.

Eli Apple is eager to hit the ground running with the Carolina Panthers in 2020. The cornerback has seen plenty during an inconsistent start to life in the NFL. And the stakes could not be higher for the former No. 10 overall pick.

The Carolina Panthers picked up Apple on a one-year, $3 million deal late in the free agency period. This was a good spot for the player to come in and start right away. But the jury is still out as to what sort of impact he can make.

Apple has flattered to deceive during his career so far. This is somewhat surprising given the tools at his disposal. And it appears he is entering the last chance saloon regarding his ability to become a valuable starter at the next level.

This is undoubtedly a challenge he is taking head-on. Apple has made a solid impression during the first two weeks of training camp. And it is clear the player is not lacking in confidence regarding his ability to turn things around.

"“I’m a tall, rangy, fast corner. Very physical, especially in press coverage. I pride myself on getting hands on (receivers) and disrupting routes. I feel like with those skills, I can fit in, and I’ll definitely be a great piece to this defense. I’m just trying to be someone that they (younger players) can talk to about stuff like that because I do have experience.”"

Eli Apple keen to put experience to good use with the Carolina Panthers.

It has been an eventful career from Apple’s perspective since he entered the league. The cornerback came out of Ohio State with a big reputation. And this pressure was something he found hard to deal with initially.

He gave him 38 receptions from 62 targets as a rookie with the New York Giants on his way to a modest grade of 62.8 grade from Pro Football Focus. Things did not get much better after that, with Apple starting just 12 more games at MetLife Stadium before he was traded to the New Orleans Saints.

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His time with Sean Payton’s men was littered with inconsistencies. Apple would come up with a great play one minute, only for him to give up significant yardage with a costly error almost immediately after.

Apple was not brought back by the Saints this offseason. It would not have come as a surprise to the player. But it is another valuable experience he can bring to Carolina as he looks to make his presence felt in a different environment.

"“I feel like I’ve seen so much, and I’ve been through a lot — more than the normal guy would. I’ve been traded, I’ve been on teams that were really good and teams that were really bad, so I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen every side of, I feel like, the league. So I feel like there’s a lot of experience with that and now it’s just about going about my business and doing it at a high level.”"

This is the biggest season of Apple’s career to date. He must not only overcome individual challenges as a potential target for opposing offenses. But as one of the more experienced members of Carolina’s secondary, he will also be tasked with guiding a young group through this expected period of transition.

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That might be easier said than done. But there still appears to be plenty of self-belief where Apple is concerned despite his career not turning out as expected so far. This is something that will stand the cornerback in good stead with the Panthers. And if he can make the necessary step forward, then the organization could have a real steal on their hands.