Most of the Giants’ remaining offensive players will spend the next month playing for their jobs. That goes for just about everyone from the future Hall of Fame quarterback to the undrafted rookie lineman.
There is one player, though, who will be part of the team’s plans no matter how the waves of change shape the franchise during what is sure to be a tumultuous offseason for the Giants. That’s tight end Evan Engram, the first-round pick who has been having a very strong first season in the NFL.
His last two games, though, were shaky. Five dropped passes. A couple of penalties. Four total catches for 27 yards.
For Engram, the goal for these five remaining games is not to win a job for next season. It’s to get back on track so he can head into 2018 on a positive trajectory.
“I’ve just got to be better,” Engram said after Thursday’s 20-10 loss at Washington. “There’s no excuses for it. I’ve just got to make some plays.”
For most of the season, he has. He has 44 catches for 470 yards, and his five touchdowns equal the franchise record for a rookie tight end. Even with the two-game blip, he leads all rookie tight ends in the major receiving categories. But as his responsibilities have increased — with so many key playmakers out with injuries, he’s one of the few dependable targets left — it seems as if he is trying to do too much.
“Somebody’s got to step up and make a big play,” Engram said after Thursday’s game. “I’ve got to step up and make a big play. Somebody just has to create a spark to get us going.”
Ben McAdoo said he liked the way Engram bounced back in that game after his early drops.
“I did have conversations with him during the course of the game and let him know that he can still make a big impact in the ballgame, in the way the ballgame was going,” McAdoo said. “He just needs to stick with it and focus on the details and the little things.”
Was Engram receptive to those in-game conversations?
“Yeah, he’s phenomenal on the sideline,” McAdoo said. “He plays the game with a clear mind.”
Eli Manning also offered advice to his fellow Ole Miss product.
“This is football,” he said. “Things can be going very well and then all of a sudden you can just have a few things not go your way and not make the plays. So you’ve just got to keep doing the right things, stay positive, want to get the ball, want to get open, want to do the right things and you’ll get out of it. It will snap.”
Engram has spoken about not being able to fully enjoy his personal successes while the team was losing. Against the Chiefs, the storyline flipped and he was able to laugh off — or at least smile off — his worst game as a Giant because the team won. Thursday against Washington, neither he nor the team found anything to be happy about.
That may be the point that turns Engram’s fortunes.
“There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about it or feeling angry about it or embarrassed about it or whatever it is,” Manning said. “It’s fine to go through those things. Sometimes you’ve got to have those feelings so you do snap out of it.”
Engram has denied he has hit a “rookie wall” that sometimes pops up at this time of a player’s first season. He has five games left to prove otherwise. He comes back after a weekend off hoping to regain the form that made him an exciting part of the Giants’ future for most of this season.
“Just keep going,” Engram said. “It’ll come back to you.”