General managers don’t exactly group chat players before they make transactions.
That’s why Evan Engram heard about Odell Beckham Jr. being traded when the public did, even though the tight end would be one of the people directly impacted by the move. Engram, who is entering his third season, had just finished working out and was on the phone with his agent. They hung up, and the update came across his phone. Stories that followed in the wake of the news pegged Engram as a winner in the deal as he helps fill the void of the team’s leading receiver.
“We’re going to see,” Engram said on NFL Network. “We’re going to see. Odell missed a couple games last year, and it just presented a lot more opportunities to step up and make some plays. Definitely our coaches put together a great game plan that kind of surrounded that, and we have so much talent on our team outside of Odell. We’ve got Sterling (Shepard) and Saquon (Barkley) and Eli (Manning) and the O-line that’s young and learning. I think it just presents itself as more opportunities and it all comes down to the work being put in, the belief we have in ourselves to step up in those moments.”
After the dust settled, Engram caught up with Beckham last week and had dinner with the three-time Pro Bowler. It was the first time they talked, and Engram had a chance to see where Beckham’s mindset was before his introductory press conference in Cleveland.
“It’s kind of weird talking about ‘his’ team now and now he’s talking about ‘our’ team, and just a couple months ago we were all in the same locker room,” Engram said. “I’m excited for him. He’s just a great player. He’s helped me so much since I’ve been in New York. He has a great opportunity with all that talent that’s over there and always will wish him the best and he’ll definitely be a friend for life.”
Engram missed five games in two separate stretches in the middle of last season with knee and hamstring injuries. Just as he got healthy, Beckham did the opposite and missed the final four weeks. Engram averaged 80 yards per game in that span. Of the 16 games Beckham missed in the past two seasons, Engram played in 15 of them, racking up 71 catches for 886 yards and six touchdowns.
“I definitely saw some adversity last year and had some bumps and bruises, but that’s part of the game,” Engram said. “That last kind of half of the year when I got healthy and we started playing some winning football and took advantage of opportunities to make some plays. So I’m definitely excited about going into this year. I’m going to be taking care of my body a lot better and praying for more health and success and just having more fun this year.”
Meanwhile, Engram is in the same boat as everyone else when it comes to the Giants’ draft plan. Gettleman won’t be texting him about that either before calling in the picks. The team owns 12 selections, including the sixth and 17th overall choices. Engram, the 23rd overall pick by the Giants in 2017, doesn’t try to listen to all the speculation, but it’s hard to avoid these days.
“It’s kind of hard to put a finger on who you think we’re going to draft because honestly we find out when you guys find out,” Engram said. “We believe our front office and our coaches are working hard and watching the film and going to bring in the talent that deserves to be here and the talent that’s going to help us win. I know wherever we (go) at six and 17 and picks after that, those guys are going to come in ready to work and get ready to play some more winning football.”
Although he was drafted by the previous regime, Engram’s confidence in the current one comes from seeing the 2018 draft class. In Gettleman’s first draft as general manager of the team, the Giants brought in running back Saquon Barkley (AP Offensive Rookie of the Year), left guard Will Hernandez (PFWA All-Rookie), defensive tackle B.J. Hill (set Giant’ rookie sacks record) and outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter (4.0 sacks and nearly 700 snaps between defense and special teams roles). Engram said they were some of the most mature guys on the team “in the way they prepared and in the way they fought each and every week and the way they just came in the office and came into work each and every day.”
When players report April 15 for the start of the voluntary offseason workout program – 10 days before the draft -- Manning will be front and center. The two-time Super Bowl MVP, who turned 38 in January, is back for a 16th season with the franchise. Gettleman has called the narrative that Manning is overpaid and can’t play a “crock.”
“First of all, Mr. Gettleman has all these crazy sayings,” Engram said. “His Boston accent is hilarious walking through the facility. But Eli still is going to be Eli. We’ve got to be better as a team sometimes and we’ve got to play more complementary football, and when he’s protected and when we have a great game plan in, he can still make every throw. He can still drive the ball down the field, and he’s shown that. He’s shown that definitely the second half of last season. We started competing more often, started making more big plays and scoring a lot more points. (Gettleman is) not lying when he says that. I can’t wait to get back to work with him.”