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Why Eli Apple is very underrated

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Eli Apple is one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the NFL

By: Jake Rajala

The Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Eli Apple was a pleasant surprise for the Bengals in 2021. In Apple’s first season as a Bengal, Pro Football Focus pointed out that Apple allowed the lowest passer rating allowed in man coverage. Furthermore, he also notched two interceptions and 10 pass deflections last season. It’s clear that Apple proved to be a late bloomer and potent shutdown corner at 26 years old for Cincy.

It may be easy to attack Apple on social media with a million other critics after he struggled to contain Cooper Kupp in Super Bowl LVI, but it doesn’t change the fact that Apple was a superb player from the 2021 season as a whole. It’s worth noting that Cooper Kupp wasn’t only prolific against Apple, but he was a rockstar against every team in the playoffs. Here is a closer look at how Kupp performed in the Super Bowl compared to how he performed in the two playoff contests prior to facing the Bengals.

  • Against the Bengals: 8 receptions – 92 yards – 2 touchdowns

  • Against the Buccaneers: 9 catches – 183 yards – 1 touchdown

  • Against the 49ers: 11 receptions – 142 yards – 2 touchdowns

It’s clear that Kupp wasn’t only magical against Apple when he scored a touchdown against him out wide in man coverage and another score against the Bengals CB from the slot (while it appears Apple thought Kupp was run blocking), but the “2021 Offensive Player of The Year” was superb against every competitor he faced in the playoffs last season. If anyone believes Apple is a poor ballplayer for his battles against arguably the top WR in the NFL, they would have to be more silly than one of the baseball scouts not named Peter Brand (aka Jonah Hill) from the movie “Moneyball”.

The “keyboard warriors” were quick to virtually sacrifice Saints safety Marcus Williams for giving up the Minneapolis Miracle in the 2018 playoffs and now countless fans want to make Apple walk the plank for his rough moments against the Rams in Super Bowl LVI. Apple really was a quality contributor for his AFC home in 2021 and he could most likely choose to reunite with the Bengals as a free agent this offseason. Expect the talented and somewhat unpopular NFL CB to likely be even a better version of himself in 2022.

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