Evan Engram came to the Giants with high expectations, a tight end who had the speed of a wide receiver and would be a mismatch for defenses. But the 2017 first-round pick out of Mississippi has been mostly a disappointment in his three-plus seasons, missing time with injuries but also missing big plays.
There was none bigger than his dropped pass late in the fourth quarter of the Giants’ Thursday night game against the Eagles. Had Engram made the catch on a perfectly placed pass from Daniel Jones, the Giants would almost certainly have been in position to retain a 21-10 lead – or even build on it. But as the ball fluttered through his hands, so did the Giants’ hope of an upset win and additional momentum that might have even catapulted them to an unlikely title in an admittedly woeful NFC East.
With the Nov. 3 trade deadline approaching, it is in the Giants’ best interests to see what they can get for the 6-3, 240-pound Engram, because it is clear that his time with the Giants will soon be over anyway. The team did pick up a fifth-year option for 2021 that would pay Engram about $6 million and his continued inconsistency makes it a long shot that they’d keep him around.
Engram is a hard-working player who is unmistakably earnest about his desire to improve, but he has proven too unreliable. Not only did he fail to catch the fourth-quarter pass, but Jones’ first-half pass on an in-route caromed off Engram’s hands and was intercepted. It’s a continuing pattern for Engram, whose 21 dropped passes since 2017 are the most of any tight end in that span.
There was some interest in Engram at the trade deadline last year, but general manager Dave Gettleman decided to give Engram another chance. But if a team comes calling this time around, it’s time for the Giants to make a move.
Odell can’t help himself
Where have we seen this before: Odell Beckham doesn’t get as many passes thrown his way, loses his cool and loses the game. Sound familiar, Giants fans?
Well, Beckham is at it again in Cleveland, and his act is wearing thin. Even if his coaches and teammates are trying to be understanding.
"We are all very frustrated," quarterback Baker Mayfield said after Sunday’s loss to the Steelers. "We want to win. We do not come out here just to get stats and do all that. We come out here to win. It is a frustrating loss for us knowing that we just did not play well and let a great team capitalize on all those mistakes that we made. We are all frustrated."
But as the Giants came to know all too well, Beckham’s frustration too often created unnecessary distractions. Looks like things haven’t changed in Cleveland.
Wish he’d knock it off. The guy has too much talent to let his emotions ruin things for those around him.
Bowles’ next act
Tom Brady has reinvigorated the Buccaneers’ offense to the point at which Tampa might be ready to overtake New Orleans for the NFC South title. But it’s Todd Bowles’ defense that has been every bit as important to the Buccaneers’ 4-2 season.
Bowles, the former Jets’ head coach who was fired in 2018 after a four-year run, has done terrific work as defensive coordinator. His latest masterful effort: snuffing out Aaron Rodgers & Co. in the Bucs’ 38-10 beatdown of the previously unbeaten Packers last Sunday. Rodgers was held without a touchdown pass and threw two interceptions.
Bowles’ secret sauce against Rodgers: Keep him contained in the pocket. It’s why he didn’t panic when the Packers led 10-0.
"He got out of the pocket twice, he made a good play on third down and then he got out of the pocket another time," Bowles said. "We didn’t try to sway away from the game plan. We told [the players] to stick with it, we’ll start keeping him in the pocket and then those guys can start making plays. That was basically it."
The Bucs lead the NFL in defense, allowing 282.0 yards per game. They’re also eighth in points allowed (20.0).
Bowles has always been a fine defensive tactician, and while he couldn’t get the Jets to the playoffs in his time with the Jets, he’ll likely be considered for another head coaching job in the not-too-distant future.
For now, though, his focus is on 2020. And, despite the impressive start, he won’t allow his players to be overconfident.
"We’ve got a lot of things to get better at," he said. "I know we made plays (against the Packers) and we’re happy we won the ballgame. But we’re still scratching the surface on a lot of things and trying to iron out some things. It’s a long season. Like I said, every week, you have to forget about it the next day – win, lose or draw. You try to see it the same and prepare for the journey, not just the race at hand. We’re trying to get ready for the Raiders this week and keep it moving from there."
Bowles will get some help from one of his former players with the Jets, defensive tackle Steve McLendon, who was traded to Tampa last Sunday. He’ll help fill the void left by the season-ending ankle injury to Vita Vea.
"He’s not just a great locker room guy, he has a great motor," Bowles said of McLendon. "He’s a very good nose tackle. We need some depth down there at that position because it’s a long season. He brings energy, he brings toughness and he brings strength to us. He’ll fit in quite well with the guys."
Anderson thrives in Carolina
Robby Anderson was hoping to work out a deal in the offseason to remain with the Jets, but they didn’t want to meet his asking price. So, Anderson signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Panthers and was reunited with his college coach, Matt Rhule.
It couldn’t have worked out better for Anderson, who is having a career year.
The 27-year-old receiver is second in the NFL with 566 receiving yards and tied for fourth with 40 catches, putting him on pace to have over 1,500 yards and 100 catches.
Anderson built a reputation with the Jets as a big-play receiver, but Rhule, who coached Anderson at Temple, saw much more versatility.
"When you see the tape, you see a guy who did all of those things, and I knew from college that he could do all of those things," Rhule said of Anderson’s ability not only to stretch the field, but to run crisp intermediate routes as well. "He’s got great ball skills, and he’s got great body control."
Anderson is glad to prove he isn’t one-dimensional.
"I've just been able to show that I’m an all-around receiver, which I already kind of knew about myself," said Anderson, who has caught 40 of the 51 passes thrown his way by Teddy Bridgewater.
"It was always in him," Bridgewater said of Anderson’s multidimensional skill set. "Maybe it was the system he was in. You know how this league works. When you’re labeled one way, that travels with you."
Jimmy G. faces his old team
For the first time since being traded to the 49ers in 2018, Jimmy Garoppolo will face the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots dealt Garoppolo to the 49ers for a second-round pick, and his acquisition paid off with last year’s Super Bowl run.
"I’ve learned a lot being together with him for a little over three years," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said of Garoppolo. I enjoy him as a player and as a person, too. Expect him to just keep getting better the more he’s here and the more he stays healthy."
Belichick, who strongly considered a plan that would have kept Garoppolo in New England to succeed Tom Brady, said he continues to respect Garoppolo’s work.
"We all know Jimmy’s a quality player and can do all the things that a good quarterback needs to do," he said. "I don’t think there’s any question about his skill level and what he’s been able to accomplish and what their team’s been able to accomplish. We’ll be ready for his best. I’m sure we’ll get it."
Rookies flourish in the passing game
The Jets are happy to get second-round receiver Denzel Mims in the lineup after hamstring problems kept him out of almost all of training camp and the first six games. And if Mims joins the trend of rookie receivers thriving this season, the Jets’ offense will certainly be better off.
Consider: Four rookie wide receivers have at least 300 receiving yards this season – Justin Jefferson of the Vikings (537), CeeDee Lamb of the Cowboys (497), Tee Higgins of the Bengals (339) and Chase Claypool of the Steelers (335).
With offenses dominating the early goingthis year, the rookies are off to a terrific start. Overall, rookies have totaled 8,509 scrimmage yards. If the rookies total at least 1,305 scrimmage yards in Week 7, this season will surpass 2017 (9,813) for the most combined scrimmage yards by rookies through Week 7 in a non-strike year since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Gronk finds the end zone
It took six games, but Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski finally scored his first touchdown since coming out of retirement. It was the 91st time Tom Brady and Gronk hooked up for a touchdown – including playoffs – as they surpassed the Chargers duo of Philip Rivers and tight end Antonio Gates for third-most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver combo.
The two can tie Steve Young-Jerry Rice (92) for second place with a touchdown in Tampa’s game against the Raiders on Sunday, although they probably won’t reach Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who combined for 114 touchdowns during their days with the Colts.
Henry makes history
Derrick Henry, who rushed for 212 yards in Tennessee’s Week 6 win over Houston, is the first player in NFL history to have a 200-yard rushing game in three straight seasons … Talk about spreading the wealth: 10 Steelers have at least one sack this season, led by Bud Dupree (5.0) and T.J. Watt (4.5). And seven Steelers have at least one interception for 5-0 Pittsburgh. Steel Curtain 2.0, anyone? … Ryan Tannehill had mixed results in his career in Miami, but he has thrived in Tennessee. The former first-round pick is second in the AFC with a 113.5 passer rating and is a huge reason Tennessee remains unbeaten at 5-0. … If 2020 has shown anything, it’s that almost no lead is too big from which to recover. For the first time in NFL history, at least one team has rallied from a deficit of 16 points or more to win a game n each of the first six weeks of the season. The Bears have two such wins, rallying from a 17-point deficit in Week 1 and a 16-point deficit in Week 3 … The Seahawks face the Cardinals in a huge NFC West game, with 5-0 Seattle coming off the bye to face the iimproved 3-3 Cardinals. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is an NFC best 7-3 after a bye since taking over in 2010. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson is an NFL-best 6-1 after a bye.