The Giant Insider Online

Looking for a Breakout Star in 2018? Try Evan Engram

The New York Giants offense is poised to explode in 2018. Ask anyone. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. paired with rookie running back Saquon Barkley? Cannot be defended, say some.

We’ll see how this new dynamic plays out in a few months when head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula roll out their new offense. What many are forgetting is that the Giants have other players in the mix that are sure to benefit from defenses expending all their resources to stop Beckham and Barkley.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard is one. He will draw single coverage on most downs, and it will be up to him to carve his niche in this offense. If he can beat his man, and he usually can when given a decent midrange route, quarterback Eli Manning will have a solid go-to option. All should keep a serious eye on this young man this season.

Tight end Evan Engram is in position to be the other major beneficiary. As an in-line tight end, Engram is a little better than average player as his size (6 feet 3, 240 pounds) becomes an inhibitor. He is a better blocker than one would think, but still, it’s not the best use of his talents. It’s when the Giants split him off the line, into the slot let’s say, he becomes a mismatch nightmare for defenses.

“Evan is a tight end and we’ll use him as such, but our game says that you can detach him and extend him like a wideout, so we’re going to try to use him that way if we can, as well,” said Shurmur.

His size/speed (he runs a 4.42-second 40-yard dash) combination makes him a weapon that defenses will have devote more resources to. With Beckham and Barkley doing their thing and Shepard filling in the blanks, defenses will be confounded when it comes to handling him.

Engram showed promise last year, setting a franchise record for touchdown receptions by a first-year tight end. He also notched several NFL records, including most games with four or more receptions and 40-plus receiving yards in first eight games of the season by a rookie tight end (seven). He finished third among rookies in 2017 in receptions (64) and fifth in receiving yards (722). Only one tight end in the NFL had more targets than Engram’s 115 last year, and that was Kansas City’s Travis Kelce, a three-time Pro Bowler, who had 122.

The Giants want to build on those numbers and reduce some others, such as dropped passes. Big Blue led the NFL in drops last year with 45, 11 of those were committed by Engram.

“Last year I was kind of a deer in headlights and was just out there running around,” Engram said. “I was able to do some good things and have some things to work on.”

But while he cleans those things up, it’s the positives that should be concentrated upon, such as this:

With all the Jerry Reese bashing transpiring on social media these days, he knew how to find skill players, that’s for sure. Engram will be added to his legacy on the right side of the ledger.

Engram is a first-rounder (taken No. 23 overall last year) after all and is expected to be a star. He’s on his way. Last year, with Beckham down, Engram got a significant last of NFL life and that stardom. This year, he’ll be a third wheel at best on this offense, but could very well end up the top player in the bunch.

Engram improves every time he hits the field. If he can get over the dropsies, he’ll be doubly dangerous. He plans to be better in his sophomore season.

“It’s just a new year, new opportunity,” he said. “This year the game is starting to slow down. I’m just able to work on small things and be more of an all-around player – blocking and receiving and even leadership.”

The Ole Miss product’s head seems to be in the right place right now. At the team’s voluntary minicamp this spring, Engram was stoked about the prospect of playing on an offense with so many other elite talents. He was asked if he thought Shurmur’s new offensive scheme will afford him an opportunity to make a greater impact than he did a year ago.

“I’m really excited about it,” he said. “Just the different things that we can do against defenses. With the talent we have and just the success that Coach Shurmur has had with the system, I am very excited about it. From what we put together these last three days, even just from starting to get into it I think it could be really good for us.”

Giant fans will hopefully no longer be relegated to watching a slow, methodical, horizontal and predictable offense. All the pieces are in place, and Engram is poised to be a focal point.

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