The outside expectations for fourth-year tight end Evan Engram, whom several preseason prognostications forecasted might be one of the Giants destined to earn his first Pro Bowl berth this year, haven’t quite materialized as anyone thought would be the case.
Because of that, Engram has, at times, drawn the ire of the Giants faithful and media about whether he belongs on the roster.
But despite the injuries, the perceived deficiencies in his game, the annual rumors of his being on the trading block and all the other bumps Engram has had to navigate, the fact remains that he's had three coaching staffs believe in his skillset strongly enough to continue making him an integral part of the offense.
The current Giants coaching staff loves the versatility Engram brings to the passing game, and it’s been in 12-personnel where Engram’s versatility has been a plus for the Giants.
New York has run 12-personnel (one running back, two tight ends) on 27% of their offensive snaps this season.
However, in the passing game, that number has jumped up to 51% with the Giants having a 49% success rate that breaks down to Daniel Jones completing 47 out of 69 pass attempts (68.1% completion rate) for an 83.7 passer rating and a 1:1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Part of the reason the Giants have been so successful with 12-personnel is that they’ve been able to move Engram around to create multiple looks that have allowed him to be the matchup nightmare that the Giants hoped he’d be.
Specifically, Engram’s ability to play that big receiver role can sometimes give the illusion that although the Giants are in 12-personnel, they’re running a play more commonly seen in 11- or even 10-personnel.
“You can do a lot of different things with Evan,” head coach Joe Judge said.
“He’s a guy that we’ve obviously used in some different roles throughout this season. (Offensive coordinator) Jason (Garrett) has done a good job of moving him around as a chess piece, playing him some in the backfield, flex him out wide like a receiver, and then playing him attached as a tight end.
"To have a guy like that on the field that you can do a lot of different things with really kind of presents some issues to the other team at times.”
But for all the versatility and options that Engram offers the offense, what’s made him the source of Giants fans’ ire of late, besides the injuries which have been out of his control, has been his inconsistency.
When Engram is on his game, he can be breathtaking to watch given his speed and fluidness in the open field.
But while he's been healthy this year, he's also been incosnistent. He’s dropped seven passes this year, boosting his career total to 13 in 196 pass targets, a 6.6% drop rate.
This year there was no more significant drop than his alligator-armed attempt to haul in a deep pass from Daniel Jones against the Eagles three weeks ago that, had he caught, would have helped to finally snap the Eagles’ seven-game winning streak over the Giants.
To his credit, Engram didn’t hide from the media after his backbreaking drop—win or lose, the Giants PFWA Chapter’s pick for the 2019 George Young “Good Guy Award” has never been one to hide after a bad game.
“I’m not a guy that will make excuses,” Engram said. “I never point the finger at anybody else. That was a play I should have made.”
True to form, Engram went right back to work, and the following week, he caught five out of 10 pass targets for 61 yards, four yards shy of his 2020 season-high total.
Last week, in the win over the Washington Football Team, Engram again caught five out of 10 pass targets, this time for 48 yards.
He also added a touchdown reception, proving to himself, his teammates, and anyone else who might have doubts that he’s not about to crumble under the weight of a bad play.
The chain of events has been part of a more mature and focused Engram.
“I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned is learning how to stay in the exact moment,” he said.
“There have been a lot of times where I’ve allowed a bad play to linger, and mentally it’ll mess me up. It won’t allow me to prepare for the next play and make the next play.
“I think my maturity and I’ve just kind of grown in this league and through the adversity and the lessons learned, I’ve learned to just kind of stay in the moment.
"When the mistakes do happen and the bad plays do happen, definitely you need to flush them. But when the time is right, you learn from them and you work on the things that need to be improved on that could have prevented that.”
But that doesn’t mean he isn’t looking to correct what went wrong and build off that in the right direction.
“Yeah, it’s the small things,” he said of the blips in his performance. “Maybe not looking the ball all the way into the tuck, or keeping your shoulders square while running a go route, or shooting your hands together, don’t shoot your hands too early and continue to run through the ball.
“Just small, technical things that are important techniques in receiving the ball and being a receiver. Just really fundamentals. Just being able to focus on those and sharpen those things when there’s time to do that.”