Talent has never been the issue for Evan Engram.
Just think back on that one play in Tampa last year, when Engram took a pass over the middle from rookie Daniel Jones and then outran the Buccaneers’ defense on the way to a 75-yard touchdown, and you know this is a player who possesses special ability. It was a play helped catapult the Giants’ comeback from a 28-10 halftime deficit in a 32-31 win in Jones’ first NFL start. A play that further underscored Engram’s game-changing talent.
No, the problem for the fourth-year tight end is something that’s mostly out of his control and more a reflection of the risky sport he plays. Injuries have limited the former first-round pick’s availability through the early part of his career – nearly a season’s worth of ailments. After a promising rookie season with 722 receiving yards and six touchdowns, Engram missed five games in 2018 with knee, hamstring and foot injuries and then missed eight more last year with another foot problem that required surgery. All told, Engram has played 34 of a possible 48 games.
But it is a new beginning of sorts for Engram, who said he is now fully recovered from his foot injury after a long rehabilitation process. And while he isn’t permitted to discuss details of his injury situation – it’s verboten to discuss injuries under new coach Joe Judge – the 25-year-old tight end is ready to go. And ready to fulfill the promise the Giants saw in him to spend a first-round pick in 2017 and exercise a fifth-year option that will keep Engram’s contractual rights through the 2021 season.
“I feel great,” Engram said Monday on a Zoom call with reporters. “I’ve had a very blessed offseason. I’ve been working my butt off in rehab and getting back. Right now, I’m just doing everything I can.”
Skeptics will say Engram may never shake the injury bug, since some players are truly injury-prone and simply can’t maximize their ability. But the fourth-year tight end isn’t worried about those who lament what he can’t do.
“I’m not really worried about what all the other people are saying,” Engram said. “I can only control what’s in front of me. That’s coming in, working hard during training camp and learning this offense and being a good teammate and a good leader.”
This is now the third different offense Engram will learn in just four seasons, but it could be the best yet. Former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who had previously been the team’s offensive coordinator, absolutely loves incorporating tight ends into his schemes. Jason Witten played most of his soon-to-be Hall of Fame career under Garrett, who often relies on the medium-range routes that competent tight ends are so good at running. Giants fans are all too familiar with the damage inflicted by Witten, who has 165 receptions and 16 touchdowns against the Giants – more than any other team.
Well, if Garrett can put Engram in similar positions this season, then perhaps it will be the Giants who dominate from the position.
“You can see the impact that [Garrett’s system] has, you can see the greatness in Jason Witten, the attention to detail he had and the success in the offense he had,” Engram said. “I’m just trying to do my best to learn as much as possible and pick up the offense as quick as possible.”
Engram is in a good place right now. Mentally, he’s anxious to resume his career and reach his potential. Physically, he’s feeling great. He simply hopes it stays that way.
“I had no doubt [about being ready for training camp],” he said. “I had my mind set. I had a very strong, very aggressive rehab. Each and every day, I was trying to find ways to get better. Right now, I’m blessed to be back out there running around with my teammates. I’m having fun catching the ball and learning the offense and getting ready for this new season.”
He hopes it’ll be his best, and not another beset by injury.