First impressions are impactful. Sometimes, though, they prevent us from making an honest assessment and noticing change.
Eli Apple hasn’t been that bad this year. Really, he’s been just about average, which is great progress.
Thus far this season, opposing quarterbacks have had a QB rating below 80 five times when targeting receivers covered by Apple. And they’ve had a QB rating below 70 in three of those games.
Chart of the #Bengals QBR allowed through 9 weeks by all starting DBs (based on @PFF data).— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) November 18, 2021
- Eli Apple has been better than Trae Waynes (who only played in 2 games)
- Mike Hilton has been a tad better in coverage than most think
- Chido has been a rock pic.twitter.com/1QCLVUxSsn
Meanwhile, the team recently brought in two guys, Tre Flowers and Vernon Hargreaves, to add “veteran corner experience.” The moves have been interpreted by many as an indication that Apple simply isn’t cutting it as a replacement for Trae Waynes.
The reality, though, is that the team really does need some depth; Waynes has struggled to stay on the field, and the team doesn’t have many defensive backs who can play on the boundary. Further, as Willie Lutz pointed out in the tweet above, Apple has actually been better than Waynes was in the two games in which he played.
Apple’s teammates have noticed the tendency of outsiders to place blame on him. After the Bengals’ defense failed as a unit against the Cleveland Browns, many pointed to the 60-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones and assumed it was on account of Apple’s incompetence. This is despite the fact that Cincinnati was actually worse against the run, but more importantly, that Apple wasn’t entirely to blame on the long touchdown pass.
Chidobe Awuzie, the Bengals’ best corner right now, came out and took some of the blame for the Peoples-Jones touchdown in order to show his teammate support. Really, though, it appears there was a breakdown in playcalling or miscommunication that resulted in Apple not having any help.
Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie says the deep ball for a TD completed in the CLE game against CB Eli Apple wasn’t just on Eli. Awuzie said he should have been back there for deep help in quarters coverage and was “lollygagging” on that play.— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) November 18, 2021
Now Apple and the secondary will have to stop Derek Carr and the second most prolific passing offense (in terms of total yards) in the NFL when the Bengals face the Las Vegas Raiders. We previewed that game with none other than the great Dennis Ackerman, formerly of Fox Sports and currently with Bleav in Raiders podcast, which he hosts with former Raiders cornerback Stanford Routt:
You can also listen on iTunes or using the player below: