*Evan Engram has a chance to be among the Giants great Tight Ends: *
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –Evan Engram is well-versed in the Giants' tradition of fielding outstanding tight ends, and he speaks in reverential tones when discussing a group that includes Aaron Thomas, Bob Tucker, Mark Bavaro, Howard Cross, and Jeremy Shockey.
"I see Mr. Cross around all the time," Engram said this week. "I just met Mr. Bavaro. It's definitely a great history of great tight ends here, and it's definitely an honor and a privilege to hopefully get up to where they are one day, and to be mentioned alongside those guys."
He's off to a good start. Engram, the Giants' first-round draft choice this season, has played only nine games. But he's already scored five touchdowns, tying Tucker's franchise record for rookie tight ends, set 47 years ago. Engram will enter the Giants' home game against Kansas City Sunday with a touchdown reception in four consecutive games, the longest streak by one of the team's tight ends since Bavaro did it in 1987. He leads the team with 40 catches, which have accounted for 443 yards.
Engram received an unexpected honor this week when Ben McAdoo selected him as one of the team's three game captains, the first rookie to be so honored in McAdoo's two seasons as head coach.
"That's the kind of stuff that means everything to me," Engram said. "I definitely appreciate the opportunity. It's pretty cool to be asked to be a captain, so I definitely take pride in that. Hopefully, I can continue to keep showing them I can be a captain, and grow (into) a leadership role here with this team."
"Evan's come in, he's done everything that we've asked of him so far," McAdoo said. "He works hard, loves football and it shows."
Engram was confident he could make an immediate impact after the Giants selected him 23rd overall in the draft. In four years at Ole Miss, he caught 162 passes for 2,320 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"I just wanted to be a big playmaker," Engram said. "I wanted to get into the end zone, be that red zone threat. I wanted to be a guy that could stretch the field, be a guy that many people may not see getting in the run game, but getting in there and getting physical and popping some runs. I wanted to come in and be great right away. I wanted to get past the rookie struggles. I never bought into that. I wanted to come in and be a threat and be a force right away.
"I feel like I can be doing more, but I'm kind of hard to please. But definitely, it's pretty cool coming in and having some success, but it's just some expectations I have for myself."
Mission accomplished. Engram has caught at least four passes in every game but the Oct. 8 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, when he was shut out. He had a season-high six receptions three times, including last week in San Francisco, where he scored on a nine-yard pass from fellow Mississippi alum Eli Manning.
"Eli, from day one, (has helped) me get on the same page as him," Engram said. "Learn the offense, learn the ins and outs, just getting on the same page with him. Chemistry is a big deal between quarterbacks and his receivers, so it's tremendous help by (number) 10, and definitely I owe him a lot to the transition I've made."
"I think Evan has done a good job of doing everything we've asked him to do," Manning said. "I think he takes the coaching very well, he wants to get better. He's hungry, eager to do whatever we ask him to do. There's always room for improvement. He's learning a lot each week. I think he's done a good job of extending his knowledge of this offense. We've put him in a lot of different spots and moved him around a bunch and just understanding the timing of the offense. He's done a good job."
Of course, the Giants have had to rely on Engram more than they anticipated because of season-ending injuries to wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall. But the rookie hasn't answered the call.
"I've just had to grow up a little bit faster, mature a little bit more, learning a lot," Engram said. "I think that's probably going to be the biggest step that I'm going to take, just learning the importance of just being a big playmaker, just stepping up in big moments, kind of having to deal with a lot of adversity. Definitely going forward it will make me a better player, a better person."
The most significant questions about Engram when he joined the team concerned his blocking. It was not one of his primary duties at Ole Miss, and at 6-4 and 240 pounds, he seemed to lack the size needed to take on NFL defensive linemen and linebackers. But Engram has held his own in doing his part to make room for the Giants' running backs.
"It's alright," Engram said of his blocking. "Definitely, I think I can do some things better. Just kind of getting in some positions, hold my ground a little bit more, small things I'm working on. There's some things I'm doing pretty well, but definitely kind of more focused on the corrections I can make."
Engram said he is a better blocker because of improved technique, and knowing how to position himself.
"The physicality and the strength part, that's just football," he said. "But there's a lot of small things I've learned that have helped me a lot."
Engram said when he leaves the stadium after a game, his body is sorer than it was in college – but that is not because of the big bodies he's blocking.
"It's from getting hit," he said. "I feel it a lot more after these games. These guys are flying around, hitting pretty hard and I find bumps and bruises I didn't even know I had. Like going on film and I get hit and I don't even remember it. It's definitely a lot more physical. A lot more speed, a lot more power, so I feel it a lot more after the games for sure."
But he'll gladly take the hits, if it means helping his team reverse the course of its disappointing season.
"We are doing what we love, so it's tough," Engram said of the Giants' 1-8 record. "It's definitely really tough to lose. I hate it. But we're living our dream each and every day, so staying positive is not that hard. We just got to play a little better."
Engram is one player who should help them do that.
*Offensive lineman Justin Pugh (back) and linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle) have been declared out of the game against Kansas City. Pugh will miss his second game of the season (also Nov. 5 vs. the Rams). Goodson will sit out for the third week in a row and the fifth time this season.
Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard is doubtful with a groin injury.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison (ankle) and linebacker Devon Kennard (quad) are questionable.
Keep an eye on these five players as the Giants get set to face the Chiefs