EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has seen firsthand how productive tight end Evan Engram can be.
In his first three seasons with the Giants, Engram played six games against Garrett's Dallas Cowboys. He caught 37 passes for 410 yards and three touchdowns, his highest figures against any single opponent (in second place are his 15 catches vs. Washington, 241 yards against Tampa Bay and two scores against Detroit).
Now that Garrett is working with Engram every day as the Giants' offensive coordinator, he is even more impressed by the fourth-year pro.
"Obviously, spent a lot of time on him coming out of the (2017) draft and really liked him a lot," Garrett said today. "I admired him in that evaluation process. Then we played against him, and obviously, with the Cowboys and Giants going against each other a couple times a year, a tremendous amount of respect for him from afar. He's one of those players you're always concerned about having to defend in a game when you're going against him.
"It's been even better getting to know him. I heard great things about him. Talk about a guy who loves football, wants to work at it and wants to refine his craft and everything he does. He's done an outstanding job from minute one with us. He loves it. You can see it every day. He's engaged in meetings, he works hard at practice. There's this idea that, hey, this is a receiving tight end, this is a play-making tight end. I don't think there's any question about that. But he's also someone who's willing to be a complete tight end and block, block in line and do the things he needs to do to be an every down player for us. He's been fantastic. He has a great thirst for knowledge, a great thirst for trying to understand what we're asking him to do and it shows up in his work every day."
*Garrett has also developed a greater appreciation for running back Dion Lewis, who rushed for 110 yards on 27 carries in five games against the Cowboys. Lewis is expected to back up Saquon Barkley in his first season with the Giants.
"I loved Dion coming out of school (in 2011, from Pittsburgh) and admired him from afar," Garrett said. "Getting the chance to work with him up close, he's just a real pro. You can tell he loves the game. He works very hard at it. He respects the details of the game and what he needs to do to be a complete back. Don't have this impression that this guy is a receiving back (only). He's willing to block, demonstrates an ability to run inside and outside in this league for a long, long time. He's a pro. He knows the answers to every question, he embraces the opportunities each day that he gets in them, and you said it. You get him in some of those two-minute situations, he's a very clean protector, he understands who he needs to block when he's asked to do that. But he's also a very good route runner who can beat you when he gets out in space. Again, I admired him for a long time from afar and it's been great to work with him."
*Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham has been impressed with his stable of young defensive backs. One standout has been Julian Love, who started the last five games of his rookie season at safety. Love was primarily a cornerback at Notre Dame and is contending to be a first-teamer this year.
"He is a smart football player, on and off the field, in terms of his awareness with the situations, awareness of personnel the offense is giving us," Graham said. "The fact that he's able to see that and dissect that, that's been a good thing for us. The fact that he's played multiple positions, whether he's been a corner, whatever he's played, that's a positive because it gives us an opportunity to use his skillsets. Whether it's covering a receiver from coming down, or covering a receiver and he's down there, covering a back from depth or lining up to cover a back, he can use his skillset to handle that. Because he understands the bigger picture because he's played in multiple spots, it makes it even more interchangeable if that makes sense."
*A pair of 2020 draft choices – second-round safety Xavier McKinney and fourth-round cornerback Darnay Holmes – have also stepped up in training camp practices.
"We have a bunch of young guys that are working their tails off," Graham said. "But they come in, they go to work. Darnay and Zay, I call him Zay, but Darnay and Zay go to work. They come in, they're prepared, they're ready for meetings. I think they're being really diligent outside of the building in terms of they're coming in with the right questions the next day. You can tell they've already watched the tape before we even get to it because they're being real serious about their craft. I can appreciate that because a lot of times, it takes a while to learn that. They didn't have the spring to be around the vets. Ok, you don't have the spring to be around the vets, so how are you learning that? They're kind of catching up right now and understanding the work that you have to put into it.
"To speak specifically about Darnay or Zay, they are all out there competing for spots. I don't know who is going to be out there, we could have four corners out there, we could have two corners out there. They are all learning multiple spots trying to figure out the more I can do the more value I have. The easier it is to make the team, the more value you have, if that makes sense."