Evan Engram leads all NFL rookie tight ends in most offensive categories this season and has caught a touchdown pass in each of the past four games. Sterling Shepard had a career-high 11 catches for 142 yards in his last game.
Both have been rare bright spots for the Giants during this decidedly dark season. And neither feels he can enjoy it.
“Honestly, it’s kind of hard to appreciate the personal success with the team’s outcome,” Engram said of thriving while losing, a very strange dynamic for any player. “It’s tough for me to get excited by how I play when we lose a game. I’m doing some good things and some things I can definitely build on, but it’s definitely tough to kind of enjoy those things with the unwanted team outcome.”
It’s a new experience for both players.
“You look back at last season, my rookie season, had a pretty good season and everything was all good,” Shepard said of catching 65 passes for 683 yards and eight TDs for an 11-5 playoff team.
This year, Shepard has missed several games with an ankle injury — including the Giants’ only win of the season in Denver — and has 38 catches for 475 yards and one TD.
“I don’t even pay attention to it at all,” Shepard said. “It’s all good, but when you don’t come away with a win it’s no fun. I guess you could say it’s hard to enjoy anything in that type of situation.”
Engram’s impressive production — 40 catches, 443 yards, five TDs — has not surprised him.
“I have pretty big expectations for myself,” he said. “I feel that I can be doing more. I’m hard to please. It’s pretty cool coming in and having some success, but there are expectations I have for myself.”
And, no doubt, for the team.
The one good part of it, Engram said, is that all of this experience should pay off in the coming years. With many offensive weapons sidelined with injuries, he’s been the only offensive skill position player other than Eli Manning to be available for every game.
“I’ve just had to grow up a little bit faster, mature a little bit more, learning a lot,” he said. “I think that’s probably going to be the biggest step that I’m going to take, just learning the importance of just being a big playmaker, just stepping up in big moments, kind of having to deal with a lot of adversity. So, definitely going forward it will make me a better player, a better person.”
For now, though, it’s hard to appreciate that. Or anything else.