Odell Beckham Jr.’s departure from the Giants brought abundant speculation: Who will be Eli Manning’s go-to target? Who will provide a deep threat and get behind the defense?
Evan Engram is perhaps the Giant best equipped to answer those questions.
“We are kind of past all of that,” the tight end said Tuesday as he sat out the Giants’ organized team activity with a balky hamstring, an injury not considered serious and expected to be healed in time for training camp next month. “We have a job to do and when these Sundays get here, let’s go out and perform. I am eager to get out there and compete with the guys that we have. I know we are going to be successful.”
The 2017 first-round pick out of Mississippi burst onto the scene his rookie season, catching 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns. Engram, however, endured a frustrating 2018 season, as knee and hamstring injuries held him to 45 receptions, 577 yards and three touchdowns in just 11 games. Even when healthy, Engram was at times an afterthought in coach Pat Shurmur’s offense, and his playing time decreased.
Nonetheless, Engram salvaged an otherwise disconcerting season with an impressive final four games, racking up 22 receptions, 320 yards and a touchdown and became a focal point in the offense.
“I think as he realized what he was being asked to do, he started to play a little more calm and a little more relaxed,” tight ends coach Lunda Wells said earlier this offseason.
“Especially at the back end of the season, which in turn allowed him to play some of his best ball.”
Beckham notably was sidelined with an injured quad for those four promising games.
“The coaches did a really good job last year of working around not having [Odell] and definitely trying to get guys in different positions,” Engram said. “Definitely going to look forward to doing more of that this year.”
Simply put, Manning and the Giants are relying on Engram to serve as a dynamic part of the passing game. Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate both play more over-the-middle, and although rookie Darius Slayton boasts tremendous speed, he will be eased into the offense as the season progresses.
Engram, a catch-first tight end, is the guy that can take the top off the defense.
“We got a couple rooms filled with guys that can do that,” Engram said. “I definitely feel that I am one of them, but we have a lot of guys who can do that for this team. Definitely trying to make as many plays as possible underneath, over the top, in the middle.”
— Additional reporting by Zach Braziller