“When I’m not working out, I’m probably playing Fortnite,” Evan Engram said to cheering group of kids when asked about hobbies outside of football.
The second-year New York Giants tight end was the host of a Hyundai NFL Youth Camp in New Jersey Saturday morning where he spent the morning session of the camp jumping between groups, giving tips on drills, throwing passes, and running routes with those in attendance.
“Really well put together event that allows kids to come out,” Engram said. “I can spend some time with them and it allows me just to connect, teach some football, and help them. I remember when I was in their shoes, I was an open book, ready to learn the game. It’s a really cool opportunity to get out here and give back.”
If Engram was an open book at that age, he’s even more of one now as he enters his second season in the NFL. After the session, he answered some questions on his development, learning a new offense, and the outlook for the 2018 Giants.
“The game has slowed down”
“Definitely the game has slowed down much more after playing the whole year and going through what I did last year,” Engram said about why he believes he can build on a season that saw him become one of two rookie tight ends since 1992, along with Jeremy Shockey, to have at least 100 targets.
“Even through spring, just being out on the field, just kind of running through routes and setting guys up and having one-on-one matchups — the game’s just slower. I’m really excited to get out there and have a lot more of that confidence. My leadership role has kind of increased and I’ve gotten more vocal, more comfortable around those guys with more chemistry. I’ve been working on some things this offseason and my game has gotten better. I’m ready to get out there with my guys, battling, and winning games.”
Engram likely won’t be alone at tight end on the field this season. Last year under Pat Shurmur, the Minnesota Vikings used two or more tight ends on 34.9 percent of offense plays, per Sharp Football Stats, while that percentage was 25.7 percent for the Giants. That second tight end will likely be Rhett Ellison, a player Engram gives credit to helping him hit his stride at the position.
“My game benefits from Rhett’s game more than anything,” Engram said. “His knowledge of the game… he’s just a technician with everything he does, even with his blocking. I’m definitely picking his brain, not even asking him questions, just watching his film and watching him practice, the small things he does.”
“We’re kind of the same size, he’s a little bit heavier, but his technique and blocking is the best I’ve ever seen, so we definitely compliment each other based off of him helping me, giving me confidence, and helping my game get better.”
Engram also believes Ellison will be a bigger factor in the passing game. Last year Ellison had 24 reception on 32 targets, both career highs.
“He’s a guy that got to open up a bit more this spring, Engram said of Ellison. “[He got to] run some routes and catch some balls, so it’s a really good system for us. I’m really excited to get in there with Rhett and the other tight ends we have. It’s going to be a good season for all of us in that room.”
Shurmur offense “really unique”
“The thing about this offense is it’s really unique,” said Engram of what’s being installed by Shurmur this offseason. If there was a complaint about Engram’s rookie season, it was about the way he was used. Instead of playing a similar role to what he did in college, Engram was asked to run short crossing routes from a typical in-line tight end spot. He doesn’t believe that should be a concern in 2018.
“Everybody’s everywhere. I could be outside, I could be in-line, I could be in the backfield, in the slot. I moved around a little bit last year, but this offense has a lot more moving around and it’s for everybody. It’s not just tight end. Odell can be in the slot and I can be outside of him or we can have a motion into the backfield. There’s so much unique stuff and everybody’s going to be coming from all different angles.”
“Getting downfield, I’m really excited to do that... use my speed and get out in the open. With all that talent going around, the defense will have to be honest. They’ll have to play man-up or a different type of zone. We’ll definitely get a lot of looks, but there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for a lot of people to get downfield and make some big plays, for sure.”
Beckham “looks like his old self”
Engram spent the last week in California working out and some of those workouts were on the field at UCLA’s campus and included Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Saquon Barkley, Roger Lewis, and even Kyle Lauletta for a day. Parts of these workouts were well documented on Instagram, but Engram wants it to be known these guys are getting that work in whether it’s on camera or not.
“[Beckham] just has guys that put it all together,” Engram said of the videos. “It adds some fun to it, we got some music going out there — the work’s getting put in. Not all of them are like that, though. We were out there all week, there will be cameras for one day”
Of course those videos are showcasing the return from injury for Beckham and while the clips look good, the star wide receiver is impressing those in person, too.
“He looks really good,’ Engram said of Beckham. “[He’s] running all his routes, breaking all his breaks, making all the cuts. He’s getting his confidence back, definitely. He looks like his old self. He’s running around, having fun, making all the catches. He looks really good.”
“Eli is still Eli”
Beckham isn’t the only teammate with questions Engram has been impressed with this offseason. Like much of the Giants’ brass, the tight end has been impressed with what he’s seen from Eli Manning.
“Eli looked really good all offseason,” Engram said. We went to Duke [in April], he was throwing it around. He was slinging it around all camp. He’s making a lot of throws that he’s been making for years. We go some additions on the o-line to give him some more time back there. Y’all will see. Eli is still Eli and it’s going to be a good year for us and a good year for him.”
Engram is also close with second-year quarterback Davis Webb, who has made strides this offseason according to the tight end.
“He looks really good,” said Engram of the 2017 third-round pick. “He has confidence. He’s a freaking bookworm, he’s in the playbook all day, every day. He knows where guys need to be, he knows the whole route tree. He has a little swagger to him as well, just being confident, working on his game, working on little things and being an all-around quarterback, learning from Eli. He looks really good.”
A family affair
Engram knows all the scheme and offseason workouts won’t mean much if it doesn’t translate to the field. But on that note, he believes the changes and a tighter locker room can help put the troubles of 2017 behind them.
“A big thing is just playing as a family, playing for each other, Engram said. “I’m not saying we weren’t doing that last year, but once some adversity hit and things started going and guys started getting hurt... there was a lot of adversity last year and that can cause a lot of problems. Playing as a family, playing together, playing for each other, just doing our jobs, executing and taking care of the ball... doing small things as a team, fighting as a team, preparing as a team. We make sure we do that, our win total will definitely be up.”