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Giants coach Joe Judge has high praise for Evan Engram

Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) laughs as

Giants tight end Evan Engram (88) laughs as he walks across the practice field before stretching during training camp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center in East Rutherford, NJ, on Tuesday, Aug 18, 2020. Credit: Brad Penner

As Joe Judge walks among the players during their stretching and early-practice routines, he normally stops with as many as time allows and shares a few words. Sometimes it’s a joke, sometimes it’s a word of advice or inspiration. And sometimes, it’s even a compliment.

Like what he has said to Evan Engram a few times so far this training camp. Judge had gotten to see the tight end play in games from watching his tape, but until these past few weeks he had never had an opportunity to be on the field with him and watch him closely on an everyday basis.

“He’s a guy that I kind of just tell him, ‘Man, I love watching you practice,’” Judge said.

Then, after a beat to allow that high praise to sink in, Judge follows it up.

“‘Let’s not disappoint me out there today.’”

So far that hasn’t happened. In a camp that has been defined by energy, urgency and physicality, there may not be a single player who has embodied those traits more than Engram. In Giants folklore there is a group of former players who similarly adhered to and found success through the guidance of a former coach. Unable to define the myriad qualities that encompassed, they became known simply as “Parcells Guys.”

It’s unclear whether Engram would have made the cut on that squad. But if there is one takeaway from these early stages of the latest Giants coaching tenure, it may be this: Engram is among the first of the “Judge Guys.”

A coach who rarely gushes, Judge has been nearly unable to contain his enthusiasm when discussing Engram on several occasions.

“He’s very in-tune, he’s very intelligent, he’s very deliberate about how he works and what he’s focusing on within each period,” Judge said. “I turn his tape on and see him flying around. He’s a fun guy to watch play because he has a lot of ability, but he loves the game, too.”

It’s a love that comes, in part, from having missed so much time due to injuries in recent years. It’s not something that he wants to articulate, but it’s not something he denies either.

“I’m blessed to be healthy right now and to be back on the field with my guys,” he said. “Each day is an opportunity to empty the tank. I’m not going to take that for granted.”

Whatever wake-up call Engram received, it’s resulted in a very different player at training camp. Even he acknowledges that.

“Just getting out there with all of the new staff, new coaches, and new offense, energy is very high,” he said. “The urgency is high. Every day is a process to attack and to get better.”

As he heads into his fourth year, he may also be driven by financial possibilities. Enrgam said he saw the contracts that top-tier tight ends George Kittle and Travis Kelce signed this offseason, and he knows what those could mean for him as he approaches the end of his rookie deal with the Giants.

That’s just one of the motivations that seems to be pushing him to a next level in his career, one that has eluded him despite a world of potential and athleticism. 

Monday’s practice may have been an ideal illustration of what Engram can offer. Not only did he pull in a deep pass down the right sideline from Daniel Jones, he had some key blocks in the run game as well.

Then again, perhaps the greatest push for Engram will come from those chats with Judge. He’s shown his new head coach, his third in four seasons, glimpses of what he can provide. He’s set a high bar that must be met – or even raised – each day.

After all, he’s a Judge Guy now. He wouldn’t want to disappoint him.

Notes & quotes: Late in Monday’s practice, Judge gathered the team around for an R-rated reading of the riot act regarding their effort in the workout. “We have to get it where we come off a day off and we start sharp,” he said. “That’s definitely something we have to work on as a team and improve there.” Did they respond to the peppery pep talk? “I thought they finished the practice with a lot of intensity,” he said … Several players left the strenuous practice with what appeared to be cramping or other heat-related issues, including S Jabrill Peppers, WR Rysen John, C Spencer Pulley and C/G Shane Lemieux … WR Darius Slayton was not with the team for most of practice but showed up at the end and did not participate. “The trainers are dealing with him,” Judge said while declining to specify why … LB Ryan Connelly, returning from an ACL injury, sat out a third straight practice.

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