The Giants’ coaching staff believes Evan Engram has the work ethic to reach his potential. The only question is whether the talented tight end can stay healthy for 16 games.
The possibilities are seemingly endless for Engram under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, whose system previously featured Hall of Fame tight end Jason Witten in Dallas.
“I had a tremendous amount of respect for him from afar, and one of those players that you’re always concerned about having to defend in a game when you’re going against him,” Garrett said of Engram on Tuesday. “It’s been even better getting to know him. I heard great things about him, and talk about a guy who loves football and wants to work at it and wants to refine his craft in everything that he does. He’s done an outstanding job from minute one.”
Engram has practiced without restrictions during training camp after undergoing foot surgery last December to repair a Lisfranc injury.
The 25-year-old played in 34 of a possible 48 games in his first three NFL seasons because of ribs, MCL, hamstring and foot injuries, but tight ends coach Freddie Kitchens says the Giants aren’t going to “live in fear” and deploy Engram conservatively.
Motivation is high for Engram to harness his upside and be more durable as he approaches his second contract. The Giants picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, so he’s set to collect $1.9 million this year and then $6 million in 2021. The next 32 games will determine where he fits in the tight end market, which saw lucrative extensions go out to San Francisco’s George Kittle and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce this offseason.
“Just getting out there with all of the new staff, new coaches, and new offense, energy is very high. The urgency is high,” Engram said. “Every day is a process to attack and to get better. It’s something that we’ve all bought into and we’re trying to get better at each and every day.”
What distinguishes Engram is his 4.42-second 40-yard dash speed at 6-foot-3, 240 pounds. According to Pro Football Focus, he’s averaging 6.2 yards after the catch through three seasons.
Engram’s size and speed at that position present numerous matchup mismatches for opposing defenses, and he’s steadily become a stronger blocker in the run game.
“You can see it every day: He’s engaged in meetings, he works hard in practice,” Garrett said. “There’s this idea that, hey, this is a receiving tight end, this is a play-making tight end. I don’t think there’s any question about that, but he’s also someone who’s willing to be a complete tight end, and block in-line and do the things he needs to do to be an everyday player for us. He’s been fantastic. He’s got a great thirst for knowledge, a great thirst for trying to understand what we’re asking him to do. It shows up in his work every day.”
Which is why the Giants are confident that if Engram simply can stay on the field for an entire season, he can help make Garrett’s offense explosive in New York.
“A lot of guys have a lot of talent and aren’t as open to coaching,” head coach Joe Judge said. “What I see from Evan is, he’s very in-tune, he’s very intelligent, he’s very deliberate about how he works and what he’s focusing on within each period. He listens to everything you say and tries to apply every technique as detailed as he can. That’s critically important.”
Wide Receiver Depth
The Giants wide receiver depth chart became even more open last week when key special teams member Cody Core suffered a season-ending torn Achilles.
With at least two receiver spots up for grabs, players such as David Sills, Alex Bachman and Austin Mack have impressed thus far in camp. Sills and Bachman are second-year players who spent time on the Giants’ practice squad last season, while Mack is an undrafted rookie from Ohio State.
Any of them could fill Core’s spot at gunner, who runs down the sideline on kickoffs and punts to tackle the kick or punt returner.
“Anybody that plays that position is going to show, first, a propensity to be able to run very fast,” special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey said. “That’s the key to that position. You have to be able to navigate space in a hurry. All those guys are out there working, they are all doing a good job. We just have to find out throughout the process who can do what and who is going to do well at it, who has the most upside.”
Judge gave a strong indication that veteran Cam Fleming will be the Giants’ starting right tackle when the team kicks off Sept. 14 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
That spot became open when Nate Solder opted out of the season because of COVID-19. As expected, first-round pick Andrew Thomas has been playing left tackle during camp.
Fleming is in his seventh season and was a two-time Super Bowl champion with Judge and the New England Patriots, although he’s made only 26 starts in his 75 games.
“I’ve played in a lot of big games with Cam Fleming starting at right tackle for us and we came out on the right end of that,” Judge said. “I have a lot of confidence in Cam. He comes to work every day and works hard. He’s familiar with the system and he plays with the right demeanor.”