First-round draft picks come in with first round expectations.
Evan Engram, the 23rd pick by the Giants in last year's draft, lived up to his in 2017.
In a year where fourteen tight ends where selected, Engram led all NFL rookie tight ends in receptions (64), yards (722), first downs (37) and 20-yard plays (11). His six touchdowns, which were tied with Tampa Bay's O.J. Howard for first, broke Bob Tucker's franchise record for rookie tight ends, a mark that had held up since 1970.
Now, entering his second NFL season, Engram wants to build on his production from last year, while also becoming more of a leader on the field for his team.
"I want to keep improving in every aspect, whether it's catching the ball, whether it's my footsteps in blocking, or even becoming more of a leader," Engram said. "Pushing my guys and when it gets deep in camp and guys legs start getting heavy and times start getting tough, I want to push guys to overcome it. I'm just really excited about the opportunity to come back together, get some pads on, get a little physical and get started on a big year."
The Ole Miss product will be playing in a new offense for his sophomore season. The Giants named Pat Shurmur the 18th head coach in Giants history back in January. Mike Shula is in as offensive coordinator. Engram also has a new position coach. Lunda Wells, a member of the coaching staff since 2012, is in his first season as the team's tight ends coach.
With a year in the league already under his belt, Engram says learning the new playbook hasn't been as difficult as this time last year.
"It definitely takes some time to put in and kind of get the playbook as kind of a different system, so it was kind of tough," Engram said during OTAs. "But having that year in was a huge difference. It's kind of easier to pick up, you kind of know schemes and concepts that you can relate to last year's. And obviously, last year's playbook is out the window, but just having that year in and having a better feel of how NFL offenses are ran, it definitely helps with picking up this new playbook."
What helps Engram out is having someone else in the tight end room who knows the offense like the back of their hand. Enter Rhett Ellison, the seven-year veteran who played with the Minnesota Vikings from 2012-2016. Shurmur coached the Vikings' tight ends before being named the team's interim offensive coordinator midway through the 2016 season.
"As soon as Shurmur was hired and he came in, Rhett was up here in the weight room and he was just excited about how the offense was going to use us," Engram said. "He's been our walking playbook actually with all the small things, especially at the tight end position and how coach Shurmur likes to run things. I've been picking his brain a lot, and we all have actually. He's definitely been a good resource."
Engram and Ellison make quite the dynamic duo. The former is already building a reputation as one of the league's premier pass-catching tight ends. The latter is considered one of the better run-blocking tight ends in football.
As a whole, the Giants enter training camp with a deep tight end room. Jerell Adams is entering his third season with the club. Shane Smith and Ryan O'Malley are back as well, as are an experienced group of newcomers – Scott Simonson, Garrett Dickerson and Kyle Carter.
"It's a great room," Engram said. "We got "Pops" in Rhett; he's just a walking teach-tape," Engram said. "Whether it's blocking, or his route-running which is very underrated, he doesn't even believe that he looks as good as he does. Then we got Jerell [Adams] and Ryan [O'Malley] and Kyle [Carter] – there's a lot of experience, a lot of youth and athleticism and guys that like to come out here and get better each and every day. It's a great room to be in. We're looking for a big year out of all of us."
Still just 23-years-old, Engram expects a big year from himself, especially in the new-look Giants offense that should feature plenty of big-play potential.
"I'm just taking advantage of the opportunities," Engram said. "This offense is really dynamic with all the talent that we have we just have to put it together. So it's really exciting and it's a great opportunity for us to learn the offense and get going for the season."