There is perhaps no position on the New York Giants’ roster more emblematic of the fact that the franchise is starting over — again — than tight end.
There is only one tight end on the roster who spent any time with the Giants last season. That would be Chris Myarick, and it is kind of stretching the truth to call Myarick a returnee. He began the 2021 season on the Giants’ practice squad, played in eight games, got waived and picked up by the Cincinnati Bengals with just days left in the regular season, became a free agent at season’s end and is now back in New York.
New tight ends coach Andy Bischoff, a veteran coach most recently with the Houston Texans, is looking forward to seeing how it all plays out.
“We’re just looking for guys to come in, learn the playbook, work hard and put the team first,” Bischoff said during OTAs. “That’s the kind of group we’re assembling. Whether it be a draft pick or a free agent who has some experience we want team-first guys. It’s a process, and away we go.”
Key additions: Daniel Bellinger, Ricky Seals-Jones, Jordan Akins
Other additions: Jeremiah Hall, Austin Allen, Andre Miller
Key losses: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo
Why the Giants could be better
Evan Engram never really played up to his status as the 23rd pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. He teased, and the physical gifts were obvious. Yet, Engram too often disappointed. Pro Football Focus charged Engram with 29 drops over five seasons, an unacceptable 10 percent drop rate on on-target passes. Giants fans know all too well that those drops often came at inopportune times or turned into disastrous interceptions.
It’s fair to wonder how creative offensive minds like head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka might have used Engram. It was, though, time for Engram and the Giants to go their separate ways and see if they could be better apart than they were together.
The idea of signing a player like Kyle Rudolph was a good one — an accomplished veteran tight end who could play inline and be a safety net for quarterback Daniel Jones. Only Rudolph, in his 11th season and his first away from the Minnesota Vikings, was just a shell of the terrific player he had once been.
Kaden Smith was a try-hard player with redeeming qualities as a receiver and a blocker, but also with a knee issue that limited his effectiveness, eventually landed him on IR, and may end his career.
The Giants will be better if they simply get reliable play out of whichever players comprise their 2022 tight end group.
Rookie fourth-round pick Daniel Bellinger does not possess the 4.42 40-yard dash speed Engram had coming out of Ole Miss. Bellinger’s 4.63 40 is, though, 83rd percentile for tight ends. Bellinger may not be the big-play threat Engram was, but he had 31 receptions and zero drops last season for San Diego State. If he can show that kind of reliability in the NFL, he will be a welcome addition to the Giants’ offense.
Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins are veterans who have had some success in the NFL. Both could provided more than Rudolph and Smith, at least as receivers.
Allen, Hall and Miller comprise an interesting trio of undrafted players.
Why the Giants could be worse
If Engram has a fully healthy season, which only happened once in five years with the Giants, and finds the kind of success the Giants hoped he would have for them, there is no tight end on the roster who has proven to match Engram’s playmaking ability.
Bellinger was impressive throughout the spring, but what if that does not carry over into the regular season. Seals-Jones, Akins and Myarick are all players proven to have limited ceilings. There are things to like about the trio of undrafted tight ends competing for spots, but truthfully any 2022 production from them has to be considered a bonus rather than an expectation.
What about the blocking aspect? Engram, to be kind, was not a great blocker. Rudolph and Smith, though, were solid inline blockers. Bellinger has potential in that area, but is an unproven rookie. Seals-Jones and Akins are receiving tight ends.
“You’re certainly working to every guy’s strength. Every guy does something a little better than maybe he doesn’t do as well. It’s our responsibility as a staff to put the guys in the right spots. Are we going to run downhill runs behind some of those guys? That would be silly on our behalf,” Bischoff said.
“We’ve gotta put ‘em in their best spot, and those are guys that you want to keep them on the perimeter and you want to keep them doing what they do well.”
Myarick and perhaps Hall, who played both fullback and tight end at Oklahoma, might help in this area. If they make the team, which is debatable.
Thus, blocking has to be a question mark.
In the end, the Giants and Engram needed their divorce. There are, though, solid arguments for why the Giants could end up better — or worse — at the position in 2022. Much of the ultimate answer depends on two things:
- The kind of production Engram gives the Jacksonville Jaguars.
- Whether or not Bellinger, a Day 3 draft pick, can outperform his Round 4 draft slot.