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Kyle Rudolph joins deep TE room with Evan Engram


The Giants made several splashes in free agency this offseason, adding players on both sides of the ball to be key contributors in 2021.

One of these players is veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph.

Rudolph, 31, had spent his entire career with the Vikings before signing with the Giants in March. He caught 453 passes for 4,488 yards and 48 touchdowns across 10 seasons in Minnesota, while playing in all 16 games six times. His 48 career touchdowns are tied with Travis Kelce for the third-most among active tight ends, trailing only Rob Gronkowski (86) and Jimmy Graham (82).

The 6-foot-6, 265-pound tight end recently joined the Giants Huddle podcast to discuss his excitement about joining Big Blue.

"For me, quite honestly, after spending 10 years in one place, I feel like a rookie all over again," Rudolph said. "I'm learning my way around the building, learning new names, learning new faces. Not just teammates but coaches, staff, cafeteria, everyone in the building is new to me. I'm trying to learn names and faces…

"It's been fun. It's exciting for me to be here in the building, to be around my teammates, be around my coaches. I'm not able to do a whole lot on the field, but it's been huge for me mentally to be able to be in the classroom and try to pick up this system as quickly as possible."

Rudolph joins a crowded tight end room with the Giants.

Big Blue has seven tight ends listed on the 90-man roster, and that number grows to eight when you include converted wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. It may be the largest crowd the veteran has been a part of during his NFL career, but Rudolph can identify the various skillsets.

"It's certainly the biggest room I've been in," said Rudolph. "I've never been in a room with more than six guys. You look around the room and each and every guy brings something really special to our group, something that they can help this football team win games."

Sitting alongside Rudolph at the head of the depth chart is Evan Engram, who is now entering his fifth season with the Giants.

Engram, 26, is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He finished the 2020 campaign with 63 receptions for 654 yards and a touchdown (and ran for a TD), while playing in all 16 games for the first time in his career.

Engram and Rudolph have only been teammates for a few months now, with the latter unable to get on the field following foot surgery earlier this offseason. However, Engram can already see that he will be able to absorb plenty from the former Viking, both on and off the field.

"I'm going to learn so much from him," Engram said about Rudolph. "He's another detail-oriented guy. Real savvy, knows the game, knows how to talk about the game so that guys can understand, guys can learn and they can apply it. Haven't been able to get on the field with him yet, but in the meeting room, it's been a huge help for me and even the other guys in the room. I can't wait to continue to grow a relationship, be his teammate and go to war with him."

Joining those two in the tight end room are returning players Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo, who accompanied Engram and Rudolph to Tight End University last week. In addition, Rysen John and Nakia Griffin-Stewart are returning after spending part of the 2020 season on the team's practice squad. Both were signed to reserve/future contracts in January.

Rounding out the group are newcomers Cole Hikutini, who spent the last two seasons on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad and has experience with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, and Benjamin, who last appeared in the NFL as a wide receiver for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018.

Rudolph is confident that this deep group of tight ends will be able to contribute in every way possible.

"It's our goal and the objective in this tight end room to help this team score points," Rudolph explained. "The tight end position is one that can contribute in various different ways - in the run game, in pass protection, and then certainly out in the field and in the red zone, being the one catching the ball and scoring points. Like I mentioned before, when you look around our room, you see eight guys that all can contribute to this team and help our team win football games."

With training camp here, view photos of every move made by the Giants this offseason.

Added Engram, "I definitely feel like I've improved a lot in the blocking game over the past couple of years. Still a lot more work to be done. Never satisfied, but yeah, that same mentality of we want to be receivers, we want to make plays, we want to get down field, but we're not going to get those opportunities if we don't take care of our business in the run game. The meeting room understands that and I've always understood that. Just being able to be around that mentality is going to help myself and the rest of the guys out a lot."

Rudolph is focusing this offseason on getting himself both healthy and comfortable with the offensive playbook; Engram is always seeking all-around improvement.

"It always goes back to the small things, it always goes back to fundamentals," Engram said. "When there are bad plays, you go look at the tape, look at the film, there is going to be something in there where you didn't do something small, you didn't do something to the full extent to execute the play. There were some plays last year that I didn't do the small things. That was kind of a big assessment of myself in the film and of the season.

"Really every day, hone in on those small technique stuff, whether it's route-running, whether it's securing the ball, securing the catch. Even in blocking, the smallest step can mean the difference. You look at those mistakes and bad plays, you break down the small things and you have to attack and work on those things."

It's hard not to get excited about the potential of the Giants' offense this season, given the upgrades and returnees at the skill positions. Former wide receiver and NFL Network analyst Nate Burleson deemed Big Blue's group of pass catchers as one of the NFL's most intriguing groups heading into the 2021 season. Meanwhile, Bleacher Report recently ranked the Giants as the No. 2 sleeper team of 2021 while citing the additions on offense.

Despite the positive attention the team is receiving from some media outlets, Engram knows that there is still plenty of work to be done for the offense to reach its full potential.

"At the end of the day, the sky is the limit but the work has to be put in," Engram said. "That's what we're focused on right now. We're trying to fine-tune those details, iron out the mistakes and build on the good things as well. That's kind of our main focus right now, is just building the work in, and when the time comes to put the product on the field, we're going to go out there and do our thing."

View photos of the New York Giants' active 53-man roster as it currently stands.

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