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That is what sets the 23rd overall draft pick apart, and that is the type of challenge Spagnuolo will present to his defense. Now his unit will be ready for games like Week 12 and Week 17 when they face Washington, which boasts Pro Bowler Jordan Reed, a common comparison for Engram.
“I am glad that [Engram] is only our problem in practice,” Spagnuolo said during rookie minicamp. “Look, I don’t know a lot about him and I certainly didn’t study the offensive side of the ball with the college prospects, but everything that I hear about him sounds like it is similar to what we have to do when we play Washington or some of these other teams that have tight ends that can flex out and be like big wide receivers. There will be a learning curve for him, but it will challenge our guys, which is good. I think that we need that at the tight end position and it will make our guys better, so that is what I look for.”
“The thing that is really intriguing about Evan is the speed component,” the offensive coordinator said. “This is a legitimate vertical threat, but he's not just a receiver. When you talk about first impressions, when I met him, seeing him up close and personal, 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.”
Sullivan added, “Often times people might look at him and say he's just going to be there to be split out wide and when you think of a big wide receiver, in my mind, I think of Brandon Marshall, Plaxico Burress, that's a big wide receiver. [Engram] is someone who has some of that upper body strength and the size where he can fill some of those roles that we want as a tight end and we're going to be selective in the things we want him to do. But he is not someone who you'll see strictly as someone that is displaced out in the slot that is just a bigger body. He's a versatile player, he's a tough guy, and we're excited about seeing what we can do with him.”
Coordinator Tom Quinn doesn’t envision the speedy tight end with the ball in his hands as a returner – “not at this point” – but sees him playing somewhere inside the gunners.
“I think he’ll be very willing,” Quinn said. “He has good height, weight, speed. He’s a little bit faster than your normal tight end, linebacker type. I think he’ll be a positive addition to us.”
Quinn added, “We’ll see where he fits once we can get our hands on him. All these guys coming in, we don’t expect them to have played that much special teams. It all varies on their college coach’s decisions. We take it as a blank slate and we go from there.”