For four seasons, Evan Engram has been perhaps the most vexing, perplexing, annoying, frustrating player on the New York Giants. There have been flashes of incredible talent, followed by frustrating injuries and far too many easily-catchable balls dropped, often winding up in the hands of defenders.
Engram works hard. He has the respect of the coaching staff. He appears to be an excellent teammate, and he is a standup guy who has always handled the media with grace even when trying to explain things that haven’t gone well.
Let’s talk about Engram as we continue profiling the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp.
Age: 27 when season begins
Position: Tight end
Contract: Playing on fifth-year option worth $6.013 million
Career to date
Enigma — A person of puzzling or contradictory character
(Definition via Dictionary.com)
Enigma is the perfect way to describe Engram. He has all the tools, including 4.42 40-yard dash speed (98th percentile for tight ends) and other chart-topping athletic traits that leave you thinking that linebackers and safeties shouldn’t be able to cover him. And often they can’t.
There have been times since the Giants drafted him 23rd overall in 2017 when Engram has looked like a star, when he has been the focal point of their passing attack. There have been other times, like much of last season, when his performance wasn’t good enough. He was credited with a ridiculous 11 drops last season (10.1 percent of the passes thrown his way) and his often discombobulated hands kept batting simple passes into the air and led to six balls thrown to him being intercepted in 2020.
Engram probably played the worst football of his four-year career in 2020. Yet, it was still the first time he managed to play every game in a season. He also showed that he is an enigma not only to Giants fans, but to everyone else as he was named to the Pro Bowl during a year when his play on the field clearly didn’t warrant such an accolade.
Engram has averaged 4.2 receptions and 48.4 yards per game receiving in his career. Not bad numbers, but they pale next to what guys like George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Darren Waller have done the past couple of seasons.
The Giants will, if and when we ask them, tell us how much they love Engram and how important he is to their offense. Still, with the the additions of Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Kyle Rudolph, and the return of Saquon Barkley, featuring Engram in the receiving game is likely to be less of a priority for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
It’s pretty telling that one of the notes from media in attendance at Thursday’s OTA was that Engram did not drop anything thrown in his direction by Giants quarterbacks. Engram’s 10.1 percent drop rate, 57.8 percent catch rate and 55.4 passer rating when targeted are simply unacceptable.
No matter how many targets Engram receives in 2021, the Giants need him to be more efficient. More reliable. Bad things have to stop happening when the ball heads in his direction.
Engram is likely playing for his Giants’ future in 2021.
The 2018 version of Engram, 45 catches in just eight games, a 70.3 percent catch rate, just three drops in 64 targets and a passer rating when targeted of 113.9 will likely earn Engram a rich contract next offseason. If not from the Giants, then from another team in need of potential playmakers. If the 2020 version of Engram shows up again this season, it’s unlikely a) that he would be back with the Giants in 2022 and b) that he would find a vibrant market filled with teams willing to pay him big money.