EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Evan Engram isn’t buying the theory the Giants lack receivers who can be deep threats, in part because he is one of the players who can.
“We’ve got a couple of rooms filled with guys that can do that,” Engram said today. “I definitely feel that I am one of them, but we have a lot of guys who can do that for this team. I’m definitely trying to make as many plays as possible underneath, over top, in the middle. I think we have a lot of guys that can do the same, too. We’ve got options pretty much and definitely look forward to one of those guys making plays.”
The third-year tight end will be counted on to do exactly that, as he did last year, Though he played in just 11 games, Engram caught 45 passes for 577 yards and three touchdowns. He was also the team’s third-leading rusher – okay, he totaled just 36 yards, but Pat Shurmur demonstrated that he’s not afraid to give the ball to Engram and let him run with it.
“I just try to be as versatile as I can be,” Engram said. “I like making plays when the ball is in my hands. The coaches did a really good job last year of … trying to get guys in different positions. I’m definitely going to look forward to doing more of that this year, and like I always say, just doing whatever I am asked to do to the best of my ability.”
But Engram has been frustrated, not because of what he’s done, but because he hasn’t been able to do it often enough. Knee and hamstring injuries – the latter suffered during pregame warmups in Philadelphia on Nov. 25 – cost him five games last year. Engram caught 19 fewer passes and scored half as many touchdowns in 2018 as he did as a rookie the previous year, when he was the Giants’ first-round draft choice.
The injury bug bit him again this spring, when a hamstring injury has forced him to be a spectator while his teammates practiced. But he expects to be full-go when training camp begins next month.
“I feel good,” Engram said. “Definitely just out there running, definitely out there watching the guys compete. I feel good. Working with the trainers, just taking it easy.
“It is kind of hard not being out there with the guys, especially since we’ve been competing so much. Get the blood juicing. But I’m not worried about it. It’s still early. We still got a lot to play for, so there is no need to rush or press anything.”
The Giants are exercising the same caution regarding an injury they would during the season.
”He hurt his hamstring and he is coming back from that injury,” Shurmur said. “We will be smart with him just like we would be during the season. Not holding him back, so to speak. If he was able to be out there, he would be. We all know he will be out there very soon. That may be just to start training camp. I think it is important that you get the players all the work they can get, but you need to be smart about what they are dealing with so that when training camp starts and the season starts, they are at their best.”
The veterans are free to depart after practice on Thursday. Engram, a Georgia native, said he will spend time with his family before retuning to this area to resume training prior to camp. He is eager to return to work and like everyone else on his unit, confident the offense will be productive this year.
“We have a job to do and when these Sundays get here, let’s go out and perform,” he said. “I am eager to get out there and compete with the guys that we have. I know we are going to be successful. I know guys are working. We are going to put the right guys in the right spots to make the thing work.”
*Shurmur is pleased with the progress of speedy rookie wide receiver Darius Slayton, who was chosen in the fifth round of the draft.
“Darius has done a really good job,” he said. “I think he is the most improved in my eyes. We expected a lot out of him when he got here. The rookie minicamp was unremarkable, but since that time…he is very fast. He is practicing punts and kicks. He has done a nice job playing receiver. I really think he has done a nice job during OTA’s and minicamp.”
*The full squad has two more practices and the rookies have an additional week of work before the players scatter until training camp.
“We have been doing it for multiple weeks,” Shurmur said. “I think we have gotten a lot done and certainly doing it in the second year of a program is very important. I think it is good to get away and clear your mind. I think this is pretty typical of all teams. Really, the whole NFL will be off at the same time. You get away, enjoy your family, do a few things that are fun to do and then, pretty quickly your mind will be right back into it. I think the important thing for the players, the ones that have done a lot of work this offseason, is make sure they stay on top of it conditioning-wise. This way when they come back from training camp, they are ready to roll.”
What will Shurmur say to the players before they depart?
“The message is to just make sure that they take care of themselves,” he said. “Be smart with their time off. Get away. Relax. I frequently say that it is really not time off, it is time away. I think as you get past the Fourth of July and into the summer, their mind will drift toward the season. Just be smart about the time that they have.”