The Giants' coaching staff knows that Evan Engram will be better after a rough opening performance against the Steelers Monday night. Engram knows he has to be. The fourth-year tight end was underwhelming in the Giants’ 26-16 loss to Pittsburgh at MetLife Stadium, catching only two passes for 9 yards, despite being targeted seven times.
Mix those pedestrian numbers with a dropped pass early in the game and generally poor run blocking, and Engram found himself looking for answers in the days before a Week 2 matchup at Chicago on Sunday.
"I definitely want to and need to be better," Engram said Friday. "I definitely hold myself accountable to improving this week and to come out with better details and things like that against [the Bears]."
Dropped passes can always be chalked up to one bad game and the general idea that the opening week of the NFL season is not necessarily indicative of trends. Run blocking, however, is something that Engram said he worked on in practice this week. Giants running back Saquon Barkley only rushed for 6 yards on 15 carries.
While Barkley’s production certainly doesn’t fall squarely on Engram’s blocking ability, he still was focused on improving his technique.
"That’s’ really all blocking is, using the right technique," Engram said. "There were just details that I had to clean up — footwork, hand placement, head up, eyes up, leverage. Things that I have to improve on. Blocking is a lot of small things that I definitely had to clean up."
Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett expressed confidence Thursday that Engram can improve as a run blocker, in addition to the pass catching skills that are in the forefront of any analysis of him.
"We believe Evan can be a complete tight end," Garrett said. "He’s demonstrated that at different times throughout his career, and certainly during our time together in training camp up to this point We don’t see him as a one-dimensional player who’s only a receiver.
"Obviously, he has very good receiving skills, he has great speed to get vertically down the field and can be a very good route runner. But we also see him as someone who’s willing to do the stuff that tight ends do. Play on the ball with his hand on the ground, block the different ways that we’ll ask him to block."
Garrett surmised that the sheer superiority of the Steelers’ defensive front — specifically edge rushers T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree — might have contributed to some of the struggles of the offensive line as a whole, not just Engram.
"I thought there was good evidence of us being able to do that at different times collectively as a group, and other times it wasn’t good enough," Garrett said of the blocking off the edge.
Giants coach Joe Judge cannot speak highly enough of Engram and said he has "all the confidence in the world" in him.
"This guy plays his butt off," Judge said Friday. "I don’t want to take a few isolated plays and try to magnify that to get the total picture of the guy."
Notes & quotes: WR Golden Tate (hamstring) was limited in practice, but Judge said he was ‘progressing nicely.’ He’s questionable for Sunday. LB Carter Coughlin (hamstring) also was limited in practice and is questionable. DB Adrian Colbert (quad) was ruled out for Sunday . . . Bears LBs Khalil Mack (knee) and Robert Quinn (ankle) were both listed as questionable. Quinn practiced fully on Friday and Mack was limited . . . Based on the Week 1 film, Bears coach Matt Nagy said that he already can tell that the "game is slowing down" for Giants quarterback Daniel Jones. "There’s a nice quiet confidence that he has when he’s back there behind center, breaking the huddle, and the way he sees the field," Nagy said. "He’s obviously a super smart quarterback, you could see that in his career in college . . . I think he’s doing a really good job and has a super bright future." Jones threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns in a week 12 Giants loss to the Bears last season.