Bengals cornerback Eli Apple comes home Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) when the Bengals play the Jets in more ways than one.
Staten Island's Lou Anarumo, his defensive coordinator who knows the geography as well as his player, realizes Apple's Voorhees, N.J., is South Jersey and not North Jersey, where the Jets and Giants play at Met Life Stadium.
And Apple was all-in on Donovan McNabb's nearby Philadelphia Eagles of Brian Westbrook and Michael Vick growing up. He stuck with No. 20 this season for Hall-of-Fame safety Brian Dawkins.
But they first met playing for the 2018 Giants, where Anarumo was the secondary coach and Apple was the third-year first-rounder looking to get a foothold in the league in the glare of, wait for it, the Big Apple, before the Giants traded him early in that season.
The 6-1, 203-pound Apple, a computer printout of a first-round cornerback when it comes to the specs, is on his third team since those days. But thanks in large part to this season's reunion with Anarumo in Cincinnati, he seems finally at home. Summoned off the preseason depth chart because of the injury to Trae Waynes, Apple has started every game and played the most snaps of any Bengals cornerback while his defense has logged the fourth lowest passer rating by allowing the third fewest touchdown passes.
"He's been going great. I love being around him," Anarumo said this week. "He's playing with confidence. That's what is important."
Welcome to the NFL, where change of scenery can mean everything. Now that Apple is with a coach he trusts and admires his play and, not only that, his strong safety is old friend Vonn Bell, his Ohio State and New Orleans teammate, confidence is easy to find.
"That's a huge part of it," Anarumo said of the mechanics of the NFL. "Obviously it helped I had a prior relationship with him. I just know he's a talented guy and when I've been with him he's done well."
Cornerbacks Coach Steven Jackson says Apple is getting better the more he plays and that's been plenty. He's on pace to crack 1,000 snaps for the first time in his six seasons , more than his career high of 932 in New Orleans two years ago.
It was a rough go in the opener, where he was flagged for interference in the end zone and Pro Football Focus had Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completing seven of seven passes against him. But if there's a target on his back, the numbers say not. PFF has Apple targeted once in each of the last three games and the only catch he has allowed is a 22-yarder by Green Bay great Davante Adams. Apple is in a long line there.
"Athletic. Got the size. It's just about him being comfortable," Jackson said. "He just improves every day in practice and every week. You can see it by his production every Sunday. If you just look at how he's played and how teams have targeted him, they've kind of stayed away from him a little bit. My personal opinion is he can be even better."
Apple isn't going to get drawn into any big-city controversies on his return to his first NFL stop. No former Eagle T.O. here. He has adopted Bell's mantra of "Just lock in."
"Just looking to get better and win," Apple said of his thoughts returning to Met Life to play. "I haven't really gotten many targets, but I know it is going to come down the road, especially in this stretch of games we've got coming up before and after the bye. It's just being ready."
It's pretty simple what's been happening back there for him:
"Just communicating, being on the same page, working as a unit."
Slot cornerback Mike Hilton has noticed.
"For an outside corner what you want is a long guy that can run, drop his hips, and really cover guys pretty tightly and he's been doing that," Hilton said. "He's a first-round pick. He has that pedigree. Over these last couple of weeks he's proven he's worth that first-round pick.."
Hilton agrees that in this league a change of address can be all you need.
"Sometimes that's all it takes," Hilton said. "Sometimes getting that new group of guys around you to build you up and hype you up. Especially in our secondary we all have confidence in him and we expect him to play well."
When the Giants took Apple with the 10th pick in 2016, he opted for No. 24. Kobe Bryant wore it, but so did Darrelle Revis, the NFL's top cornerback in Apple's decade he grew up consuming all things NFL. Even though Revis played for the Jets, Apple took the Giants' 24.
Now on Sunday Apple finds himself on Revis Island playing and winning and he's confident his new team isn't going to have a letdown in the Big Apple after last week's win in Baltimore.
"Every game for us," Apple said, "is the Super Bowl."
PARDON THE INTERCEPTION: Head coach Zac Taylor has no concerns about Joe Burrow's eight interceptions in 212 passes. After all, the man's 108.9 passer rating is first in the AFC and would be the best in Bengals history.
But he does hope Burrow learns from the end-zone pick he lofted to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase in the red zone last Sunday early in the fourth quarter and the Bengals leading, 27-17.
It sounded like had when Burrow talked this week. But he's also going to keep gunning for his playmakers and throw it up to there to give them chances.
"That's a big part of the game," Burrow said. "When guys are in man-to-man coverage they first have to stay with them, and two, they have to make a play on the ball when it's in the air. I trust my guys to go up and get it when they're in that situation. I'm going to keep giving them opportunities."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Burrow hasn't played in a cold weather game since leading Athens High School to the brink of an Ohio state championship in the 2014 title game and it looks like he won't Sunday. The app says about 62 degrees in North Jersey for Halloween afternoon. It also looks like he won't get one next week either with the ten-day forecast for Cincinnati calling for 51 degrees against the Browns on Nov. 7.
The next shot would be the Paul Brown Stadium game against the Steelers on Nov. 28. You may see him in a glove. He said last week he might try it in practice.
"I wore some gloves in high school when it got cold and windy. I'm able to spin it a little better with the gloves on," Burrow said this week. "That will be something that, when it gets colder and windier, that I'll try out in practice, see if I like it. So I might go out there. You might see me out there on Sunday with a glove. We'll see how that works. "
But Halloween doesn't sound cold enough …
Burrow is still rehabbing, but it has pretty much been folded into his weekly weight room activities. Instead of doing lifting for his upper body once week, he does it two days a week ….
He looks and feels great, but he knows to not ask about getting rid of the knee brace this season. That is a topic for the offseason, he says …
Backup running back Chris Evans (hamstring) is the only Bengal ruled out of Sunday's game, but the thinking is he'll be back next week …
Wide receiver Auden Tate (thigh) went limited for the second straight day, the only Bengal besides Evans who didn't go full Friday, and he's the only one listed as questionable …