The question was about his personal goals, not the team goals.

But Eli Apple chose to give a "we" answer before getting to the "me" answer. 

"As a secondary, we want to be one of the best secondaries on the field," Apple said. "Me? I feel like the Pro Bowl. I feel like that's all attainable. I just have to be consistent and go out here and strive to be the best corner I can be every day."

That type of response perhaps wouldn't have been one most would have expected from Apple before his arrival in New Orleans. 

This time last year, Apple was in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in OTAs with the New York Giants.

He was just a few months removed from a rocky second season in the NFL that included being suspended for the Giants' regular-season finale for getting into an argument with coaches about playing on a scout team.

"Conduct detrimental to the team," the Giants called it. 

Fast forward to the present and the cornerback is going through his first OTAs with the Saints, the team that traded for him in October to help shore up a secondary that was struggling at the time.

Seven months in Apple seems to be in a better place, embracing his new home and looking to build off the 10 games he played with the Saints this past season.

"It's just a blessing to be in a great place and a great organization," Apple said Thursday. "I'm excited about this just for everybody as a whole on this defense. I think we have a special group of guys and we have big goals for ourselves. And for myself as well."

Even before OTAs began, Saints coach Sean Payton mentioned Apple as one of the players he was more looking forward to seeing this season.

"I think we're going to see more growth and I expect more growth from Eli Apple," Payton said in March at the NFL owners' meeting.

The Saints gave up a fourth-round pick in this year's draft and a seventh-round pick in next year's draft to get Apple, who replaced Ken Crawley as the starting cornerback as soon as he arrived. He recorded 29 tackles, two interceptions and had nine pass breakups.

Apple was a big reason the defense improved in the latter part of the season. A team that gave up an average of 27.2 points and 387.8 yards through the first eight games gave up 16.9 points and 310.4 yards in the final eight games.

"I think I did well, especially when I hit my stride," Apple said. "Once I got real comfortable, I definitely did my thing on defense, especially playing man (defense). Just being comfortable. That's the most important thing."

Going through his first offseason with the Saints, Apple said he's getting even more familiar with the playbook is one of the most important things. It'll allow him to play faster. He'll need to in order to reach his goal of becoming the second cornerback on the Saints roster to make the Pro Bowl.

The cornerback who plays opposite him, Marshon Lattimore, made it in 2017. But making the Pro Bowl isn't the only reason Apple wants to play well.

He also wants to prove himself.

The Saints decided they weren't picking up his fifth-year option. Because of that, Apple will be slated to become a free agent after this season. The Saints, however, could decide to keep him, but just at a much-cheaper price than if the team had exercised his fifth-year option.

Apple was a top-10 pick in 2016, and, as a result, could have earned pay equal to the average of the 10 highest salaries of cornerbacks in the league if the team had picked up his fifth-year option. That salary for cornerbacks is projected to be $13.7 million.

But Apple said he isn't concerned about the team's decision not to exercise that option.

"Nah, I try not think about it too much," Apple said. "It is what it is. I just have to go out and get it this year and prove myself and continue to prove what I can do on the field. Everything is going to take care of itself."


Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.