There was an air of anticipation at the New York Giants’ rookie minicamp on Friday, with a media crush usually reserved for larger events. The reason for the increased media presence was likely due to the notion that this Giants rookie class could end up being their best in recent history.
The class is led by TE Evan Engram, the first rounder out of Ole Miss, a player that could single-handedly revive and define the Giants’ sputtering offense. The 6’3″, 237-pound Engram wasted no time in showing his willingness to get down to work, rolling up his sleeves and leading his fellow recruits in many of the required drills.
In the light scrimmages the coaches ran, Engram provided exactly what the onlookers came to see – a big, fast hybrid receiver who went about his craft with aggression and vigor. Off the field, he was both confident and gracious, fully aware of his surroundings and standing as the day’s main attraction.
The coaches have an idea how they want to deploy this young man they have labeled a “weapon” but were careful not to tip their hand. Engram is a TE by trade but he can line up just about anywhere on the field. His presence could be the perfect elixir for a Giants passing game that took a dive last season.
“He will play tight end for us and we will use him where he is comfortable and where he can grow,” head coach Ben McAdoo said of Engram. “He is coming from more of a spread type offense where he was off the ball a ton. We will have him play off of the ball a little bit. We won’t just have him out there in 11 personnel, we will mix him in. But special teams will be big for him. That will be big early on. He will have a chance to make an immediate impact there as he learns and grows on the offensive side.”
Engram not only has a unique combination of size and speed, he has excellent hands, a trait many recent Giants’ tight ends have lacked. McAdoo acknowledged that Engram should be an upgrade in that area but cautioned that there is still work to be done.
“He has big hands,” McAdoo said. “The biggest challenge for him at this level and especially here is the timing and the rhythm of the quarterback. He has to time his routes up with the quarterback, not necessarily with the quarterback timing up when he is open, so that is going to be different. The ball is going to get on him a lot quicker here than what he is used to even on the downfield stuff, so it is going to be a little bit of a learning curve there. But he does have nice, big, strong hands.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is thrilled to add Engram to his already impressive cadre of receivers. He confirmed that Engram would be in the tight end room and not grouped with the wide receivers. He could not, however, conceal his excitement over the possibilities the team’s top pick brings to the offense.
“The thing that is really intriguing about Evan is the speed component. This is a legitimate vertical threat,” said Sullivan. “But he’s not just a receiver. When you talk about first impressions, when I met him, seeing him up close and personal last night, this is a big, strong guy. There’s a size element that he has. He is not a big wide receiver and we do feel comfortable about things that we’d want him to do when he has to have his hand in the ground and when he is in that wing alignment.
There is a versatility that he has that we’re hoping can create some problems for the defense from a matchup standpoint because of his speed, and because of the way he runs his routes like a wide receiver. I think he had the third-fastest combine time and that’s including the receivers. He’s a dynamic threat and has a very confident but humble, focused demeanor in just the very short period of time that we were able to work with him. So we’re going to throw the kitchen sink at him and see what is going to help put us in the best position to help us. ”
The kitchen sink doesn’t seem too daunting for Engram, who stood his ground in front of the swell of inquiring reporters and cameramen.
“It was fun. It’s a blessing to be out here,” Engram said of his first day as a Giant. “Great chemistry out there. A lot of guys flying around, having fun. Great execution, some things that we need to work on, but overall good day.”
Asked for his impression of the Giants’ offense, Engram appeared to be as excited as Sullivan,
“I love it,” he said. “Especially my position. The Y and U, how much we move around and stuff, puts the defense in binds, finding holes in the defense. It’s a great offense, it’s a lot, but I can’t wait to really learn it.”
Like everyone else, Engram is unsure where and how the Giants plan to deploy him. The team has more than their share of passing game targets at the moment with Pro Bowlers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall as well as Sterling Shepard and Shane Vereen. He was told that Sullivan originally plans on playing him as an in-line, or traditional, tight end.
“If that’s what the O.C. says,” said Engram. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team. If that’s in line, getting physical, then I’m going to do it. If it’s out wide, being a vertical threat, I’m going to do that too.”
Being the Giants’ number one draft pick has not fazed Engram at all. Mocked by many to be a second round pick, he was asked if it felt weird being here.
“It’s not weird,” he said. “It’s something I definitely worked for. Like I said earlier, it’s a blessing. Just kind of soaking everything in. It didn’t really hit until yesterday and today. Just getting around the facility, getting the jersey, getting the helmet. But it’s definitely a blessing… I thought I was going to be more nervous. I’m actually really settling in, really excited about learning more and more each and every day.”
Giant fans should be excited, too.