Evan Engram showed the Giants a lot in his first NFL practice during the team’s rookie minicamp on Friday. He caught every pass thrown in his direction, seemed comfortable moving around the formations, and even appeared to be eager to learn the finer points of blocking during some of the drills.
What the first-round pick never really flashed, though, was the one skill that separated him from the rest of the athletes in this year’s draft class and made him the Giants’ choice with the 23rd pick.
Not to worry, though.
“The speed will show up,” head coach Ben McAdoo promised.
The speed — a blazing 4.42 40-yard dash at the Combine — puts him in the conversation for fastest Giant. At rookie minicamp though, particularly on the first day, that kind of thing is relative.
“Nobody was moving too fast out there today,” McAdoo said after the Friday workout. “There was a lot of thinking going on. As they go, we’ll see more speed.”
Especially from Engram. The Giants haven’t had a player like him in many years, maybe not ever. So they have been thumbing through the back pages of their playbook, the ones with calls they never had the personnel to use, trying to figure out how to harness this new piece to the program.
“We have a system of offense in place and we can play any personnel group under the sun with that offense,” McAdoo said (although even he has admitted that the Giants were too tied to their three-receiver look last year). “We try to use the players to their strengths the best we can and we will have something in place for [Engram] if he becomes a big factor for us on the offensive side of the ball as a rookie.”
That’s what the Giants expect.
“The thing that is really intriguing about Evan is the speed component,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. “This is a legitimate vertical threat.”
Sullivan, though, was quick to add that Engram is much more than just a dragster.
“When I met him, seeing him up close and personal [Thursday] night, this is a big, strong guy,” Sullivan said. “There’s a size element that he has. He is not a big wide receiver and we do feel comfortable about things that we’d want him to do when he has to have his hand in the ground and when he is in that wing alignment. There is a versatility that he has that we’re hoping can create some problems for the defense from a matchup standpoint because of his speed, and because of the way he runs his routes like a wide receiver.”
Engram seemed up for the challenge.
“I love it,” he said of his playbook and the offense. “My position, the Y, how much we move around and stuff, it puts the defense in binds and finds holes in the defense. It’s a lot, but I can’t wait to really learn it.”
On the first day, there were a few things Engram was not used to doing. His first snap, in fact, began with him lined up next to the tackle in a three-point stance. How often had he done that in Ole Miss’s spread system?
“It was a rare occasion,” he said with a grin.
But he also pointed out that at the Senior Bowl, he spent most of the week playing an in-line position rather than lining up in the slot.
“I got used to it then,” he said. “It was definitely a little bit easier today.”
“We can’t hold against him what he has been asked to do in a previous offense,” McAdoo said. “We have to develop him as we go along and see what he can handle, see what he is comfortable with and see how we can push him to grow.
“Where we start and where we finish,” McAdoo added, “may be two different things.”