The expectations for Evan Engram have been high since Jerry Reese selected him in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Since then, he’s arguably been the biggest enigma on the Giants roster. Engram has dealt with injuries that have sidelined him yet would flash dynamic athletic ability and possible mismatch potential.
However, 2020, a season where he was healthy, is viewed as a disappointment even though Engram made a Pro Bowl. Head coach Joe Judge has heaped praise on Engram’s leadership and work ethic. Still, the talented 26-year-old has made plenty of mistakes in clutch situations that deter the Giants fan base from appreciating his possibilities.
He’s now entering the final year of his contract, where the Giants did pick up his fifth-year option. Engram did not thrive with Jason Garrett’s vision as a tight end within his offense; the Y-Stick option is a staple of Garrett’s offense, and Engram lacked the concentration and hands to thrive within that role.
Engram is much more useful as an athlete running vertically and horizontally; with the football in his hands, Engram can be dangerous. However, mistakes plagued his 2020 season.
Let’s see what he does offer in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.
(Evan Engram is No. 88)
The Good: Blocking Development
Evan Engram has developed as a blocker. His competitive toughness is through the roof, but the physics aren’t there to allow Engram to be one of the better blocking tight ends in the league.
Rob Gronkowski, Lee Smith, and Marcedes Lewis are some of the better blocking tight ends in the NFL, and they’re all in the neighborhood of being 6’6" and 265 pounds.
Engram is 6’3" and 240 pounds - this will always be an issue for Engram when left in-line against defensive ends that outweigh him by 30+ pounds.
In each of these videos, Engram positions himself well, sinks his hips to lower his pad level, keeps his elbows tights, but just doesn’t have the frame or size to consistently dominate at the point of attack against defensive ends or EDGE rushers.
You may be wondering why this is a “good” trait of his. The answer is that it’s the development he has shown and his ability to do well against second-level defenders as a blocker.
Engram faces a defensive end here, and I love how he just never gives up; Benson Mayowa (95) is wide, and Engram does a good job taking advantage of Mayowa’s sloppy positioning.
Engram gets his inside hand high on Mayowa’s back and uses torque to further him away from the gap. Engram then finishes the block hard and drives the defensive end into the ground.
This is against defensive end Sam Hubbard (No. 94). Hubbard beats Engram inside, but the young tight end finished strong through Hubbard’s outside shoulder and drove his feet through the block to collapse the gap.
Wayne Gallman (No. 22) bails Engram out and adjusts his rushing path outside. Engram showed adaptability on this play, and he did it against a solid defender who outweighs him by 30 pounds.
Hubbard attempts to go inside on Engram on this play above, but the tight end does a very good job absorbing Hubbard’s outside long arm while showing anchor, good hand positioning, and overall strength.
Engram may not be very consistent against bigger defenders, but he does well against second-level guys. Here, he attaches himself to a defensive back, Von Bell (24), and he does an excellent job engaging the block, getting his hands inside, and washing him down the line of scrimmage to create a rushing lane off his backside.
The technique isn’t excellent on this play--Engram tongs a bit, but he does get into his block quickly and then is just a nuisance to disengage from. He’s blocking well through the whistle, and it’s evident that he has gotten under the skin of Mackensie Alexander (No. 21). His block and wash helped Levine Toilolo (No. 85) with his more difficult assignment on the inside.
Engram and Jamal Adams (No. 33) go at it on this play; Adams creeps up on the blitz, and Engram is able to split his midline with that inside hand - establishing control. Engram is able to drive through Adams, who can’t separate, and the tight end dominates the rep with control, drive, and good execution.
Engram also controlled Adams at the point of attack and had an excellent feel for the defender’s intentions and the rushing path of Gallman. Again Adams crashes hard inside at the snap, and Engram does a great job adjusting and repositioning himself mid-rep to gain control and turn Adams outside the rushing path.
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Here we see a goal-line run, with Engram in the backfield. His goal is to kick out the defender on the EDGE to allow for the touchdown run to the inside - Engram does this successfully. He gets low, embraces for contact, and doesn’t give up space; the result is a Giants touchdown.
Engram will never be a dominating blocker in the NFL. He has developed, and he has gotten better, but in this offense, I believe the Giants shouldn’t trust Engram as often against defensive ends. The will is there for success, but the reliability is much greater against smaller defenders, which isn’t a surprise.
MORE "GOOD, GREAT & UGLY" BREAKDOWNS
WR Kelvin Benjamin | RB Devontae Booker | RB Corey Clement | OLB Lorenzo Carter | CB Isaac Yiadom | TE Kaden Smith | WR Kenny Golladay | TE Levine Toilolo | Edge Ifeadi Odenigbo | DT Danny Shelton | OL Zach Fulton | CB Adoree' Jackson
The Great: Deep Usage
Engram’s vertical ability stresses the defense and allows for underneath routes to have softer coverages. He’s a fast player who can align on the line of scrimmage and stretch the seam.
Unfortunately, we haven’t seen this employed with any sort of consistency through three different coaching staffs. I, personally, don’t think Engram is the best route runner, but I do believe his mere presence heading downfield or horizontally is important because he is an athletic threat that can be used as a mismatch.
Before Daniel Jones’ injury in this game, the Giants were taking shots deep to Engram. On this play, he shows exceptional tracking and contested-catch ability to move the chains. I wish I could say that Engram does this more often, but, as you’ll see a bit later, this isn’t exactly an overly consistent part of Engram’s skill-set. Engram had nine deep targets (20 yards or more) in 2020.
His aDot (average depth of target) was 7.4, which ranked 61st in the NFL for tight ends. A big reason why the aDot is a bit lower (still higher than last year) is because of Garrett’s penchant to run the Y-Stick option, which is in the short parts of the field.
A more consistent Engram may garner more deep shots and a higher aDot with the presence of Kyle Rudolph. Still, Rudolph has to be the one to assume the Y-Stick plays, while Engram can focus more on horizontal and vertical routes that allow his athletic ability to be showcased.
Engram creates very good separation on this play with a quality release off the line of scrimmage. He tracks the football well into his hands and moves the chains for the Giants in what turned out to be a tight win against a bad, Joe Burrow-less, Bengals team.
Garrett had some solid red-zone plays through the season, albeit some were horrendous. This was a good route and decision by Engram to recognize the coverage, expand the defender outside before going back inside, and then running his route perfectly away from the safety, who was looked off well by Daniel Jones.
Engram then extends and makes a solid hands catch, showing good overall athletic ability. Engram only had two touchdowns in 2020--on an offense that needed weapons. One of the touchdowns was an end-around, and this was the other. It was a Pro Bowl season for Engram, yet a year to forget, and we’re about to see why.
The Ugly: Mistakes
Evan Engram couldn’t get out of his own way throughout the 2020 season. It was mistake after mistake that led this fanbase to have animosity towards their tight end.
No mistake was worse than what would have been a game-sealing catch on third down to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles. The ball was there for Engram’s taking, but he could not haul the pass in, and the Eagles ended up winning the football game because of it.
Engram is at the bottom of the screen, and he runs a good man beating route with an impressive release and acceleration off the line of scrimmage into space. He positions himself well between the numbers and sideline with a defender in trail and a safety who can’t get to the catch point.
This play stings for the 26-year-old tight end. Sadly, many other mishaps transpired with Engram around the football. Everything from tipped passes up in the air to fumbling the football--it just happened far too often last season.
He had eight drops, six interceptions on targets thrown in his direction (many were his fault), and he fumbled the football multiple times. It was frustrating to watch the Giants make such a concerted effort to get Engram involved in the offense just to see these mistakes keep popping up every week.
I understand the desire to involve Engram, and I am not knocking the coaching staff other than the utilization. Still, the mistakes proved to be devastating at times for both Engram and the Giants.
I still think there’s a lot of potential with Evan Engram. Judge loves his character on and off the field, but I don’t know his long-term standing with the Giants.
He’s heading into a contract season and may need a change of scenery depending on how 2021 transpires. I can see him going to a team and having success; I just think he has to be used more judiciously and a bit more as a mismatch weapon rather than a full-time tight end.
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