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Mailbag: Is Evan Engram the Giants' X-factor?

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Gary in Connecticut: I really think tight end will be one of the team's most important positions. Production in both the run game and the passing game is the key for the offense to stay balanced and help Daniel Jones have a great season. If Evan Engram, who has a world of talent but a long injury history, gets hurt, who else on the 2020 roster can fill in for him?

John Schmeelk: I agree that tight end will be an important part of the Giants' offense. When Jason Garrett was in Dallas, they used two tight end sets frequently. Jason Witten went 15 straight seasons with no fewer than 63 receptions and was considered one of the league's better blockers at his position early in his career. The Cowboys favored players who could catch and block at the position.

Engram could be in for a career year in this offense if he can stay healthy. If necessary, the Giants have many choices to replace him, but none will offer the physical ability or athleticism of Engram. There aren't many people who can play tight end and run a 4.4 in the 40, so it won't be a simple matter of plugging someone in who is able to do everything Engram does as a vertical receiving threat.

Even though he is young, Kaden Smith will probably be Engram's primary backup. He can be an effective blocker and competent receiver even if he doesn't have the explosiveness of Engram. Last season, he caught 31 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns in nine games (six starts).

Levine Toilolo and Eric Tomlinson have the size to be excellent situational blockers. Garrett Dickerson is a wildcard. He is entering his third season and has spent time bouncing between the practice squad and the active roster. He might have the best raw receiving skills of the group after Engram and Smith. Rookies Rysen John, who is a converted wide receiver, and Kyle Markway will also have a chance to earn backup roles.

Dwain in Washington: I think Evan Engram should be a wide receiver. He has the speed and his height would give him an advantage with the jump ball. It would also allow a better blocking tight end to start in his place.

John Schmeelk: I've answered this before, but it still shows up frequently in the mailbag. Engram is a mismatch nightmare for linebackers and even some safeties as a tight end. Those types of matchups, if set up correctly, can dictate what coverages defenses play to avoid big plays.

If Engram plays wide receiver, he is just another player at the position who can run a 4.4. There are plenty of players with that kind of speed at wide receiver, but few at tight end. He might still have a height advantage outside, but the other advantages he has at tight end to create separation would be gone. He is a much more valuable weapon as a tight end.

Edwin in Florida: Do you agree that Evan Engram MUST make a major contribution and stay healthy this year or he'll be gone next year?

John Schmeelk: The Giants recently picked up Engram’s fifth-year option, so they control his rights through the 2021 season.

Photos of Giants tight end Evan Engram.

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