When Evan Engram was drafted by the Giants two years ago, he was viewed as an enigma at the tight end position. It was unheard of to see a tight end post a 4.42 40-yard dash and a 36-inch vertical. In the receiving game, he was already being viewed as a linebacker's nightmare to cover.
But there's more to being a tight end then being a big body up the middle for your quarterback to throw to.
Engram has been working on being a better blocker since joining the Giants, and he believes he's going to bring a much improved game in that aspect this season.
"It's crazy how much better I have gotten at the blocking game," Engram told reporters after practice on Monday.
While crediting his tight ends coach, Lunda Wells, for helping him in that area, Engram has also been a student of veteran Rhett Ellison since he joined the team last season. Ellison is a more traditional tight end, serving a stout blocker in run plays and pass protection, while being a reliable source of yardage whenever Eli Manning needs it.
"I was talking with one of my family members about how my blocking game has evolved playing with Rhett," Engram explained. "Watching him each and every day, and working alongside him, it's added a lot to my plate in the blocking game. With the steps, it's the small details. I've always kind of had the punch, I've always had the heart to get in there and fight, but it's been a lot of details. I really feel like I've taken my game to another level in that aspect, just through the coaching and playing with the guys."
Engram hasn't been able to show those honed skills yet, having sat out during the first two preseason games. The Giants know that Engram's primary focus in their offense is to be that matchup problem for opposing defenses, and provide Manning with a threat in the seam. They know what they're getting from him, and having nursed a hamstring injury during the summer, the Giants are showing extra precaution with the former first-rounder.
"Yeah, it's just being smart," Engram said about sitting out along with players like Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard. "Obviously, I have to do my part as well. Taking care of my body and making sure I'm healthy and doing everything in my part. They are kind of easing me into things and allowing me to work up to the heavy workloads."
Engram's workload is sure to increase this season with Odell Beckham Jr. absent from the offensive weapons pool. And though he may be humble in saying "everybody has a lot on their plate" this season, his production will be closely watched with many hoping this is the year he puts it all together.
Last season, Engram couldn't hit his stride as injuries kept him sidelined for five games. After a promising rookie season with 722 yards and six touchdowns on 64 receptions, he had 577 yards and three touchdowns in 2018.
So, even though Engram is a guarantee to make the Giants 53-man roster, he has the mindset of making Year 3 his best NFL season yet. He continues to grind at practice and behind the scenes in the film room and weight room preparing for the time he can finally get on the field.
And when he does touch the field in Week 1, don't just look for a sweet end zone grab. Look for a block off the edge to set free Barkley. Those are the types of plays he wants to make, too.
"I come into work each and every day ready to prove myself," Engram said. "I'm trying to make this team like everybody else. Like I said, it's being smart and being cautious with things, but also, it's more on my part to prepare mentally, prepare physically, and come out here and compete with the rest of the guys."