Evan Engram got his first taste of the NFL, and he knew it had a different flavor to it.
The former Ole’ Miss standout made his debut for the New York Giants in their preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers Friday night, and the tight end caught one pass for 11 yards during his 23-snap action.
But in the overall scheme of things, Engram will need to do more than display his talents as an elite pass-catching tight end that gained him the honor as being the Giants’ recent top pick in the draft.
As the Giants continue to work to revive their running game as well as fuel an arsenal of wide receivers such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall among others, Engram will be working to improve his pass blocking, an art that wasn’t’ a high priority during his 68 catches for 926 yards and eight touchdowns at Ole’ Miss last season.
Still, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Engram is enjoying the moment. He currently is second on the team’s depth chart at tight end behind veteran Rhett Ellison, who was signed in the offseason as the Giants began to look for fresh blood at the position.
“Camp has been really good,” said Engram. “It is a lot of learning and a lot of capitalizing on opportunities each and every day. I have been trying to take in as much as I can.”
His first live action against an opponent was a reality check.
“It was crazy out there,” added Engram. “It really didn’t hit me until we started walking onto the field. It is such a blessed feeling to be here and to be around these guys. I know I have to keep playing as fast as I can. I did feel comfortable due to all of the studying that I did. I just have to make sure I am blocking and running the right routes every week and keep up with the game plan that will make the game a lot easier.”
“I know I probably could have made a couple of more big plays when the pocket broke down, and I know I have to work on my blocking more.”
Being on the line, Engram found out it didn’t take long to get a welcome from the league. He spent most of his time tangling with linemen or linebackers.
“I went head-to-head with a couple of big dudes out there and I think I held my own,” stated Engram. “I know I have to work on some steps here and there, but that’s what the film is for. I did it a good bit (blocking in college) and it was a lot of blocking out of the backfield.
“It is still the same mindset and you have to be physical.”
Head coach Ben McAdoo knows it will be a process. The Giants plan to move Engram around consistently, and they have been experimenting with a variety of looks early in training camp, one involving more two-tight end sets than in the past.
“Evan seemed to play with some speed down the middle of the field,’’ said McAdoo. “But he needs to be sharper in his assignments.
“We ask a lot of that position. It’s one of the most challenging positions on the team to play and to learn. We throw a lot at them: They have to play fullback, in-line tight end, from a wing-type position, in the slot and No. 1 receiver, as well as special teams. There’s a lot thrown at them. We feel (Engram) can handle it. He has to work at it. It’s not going to be easy.”
In the meantime, Engram plans to stay the course. He is expected eventually to take the lead at the position.
“ I’ve gotten a little stronger and put on a little more weight,” he said. “I’m learning some things, learning some more technique that helps me in the trenches, so definitely I feel like I improved a lot. I’m just excited to get the pad on every day.”