Ben McAdoo asked Evan Engram for a favor on Saturday.
“I asked him to go out there today and play with speed,” the Giants’ coach said of the first-round pick. “We’ll detail it as we go and don’t look back.”
If anything, Engram’s performance has the Giants looking ahead with giddy anticipation. During some of his first full-speed red-zone drills, the tight end was everything they hoped he would be when they selected him in April, catching three close-range passes for touchdowns in his most eye-popping practice yet.
“I woke up this morning ready to go to work,” Engram said. “I came out here and did my best to make plays . . . It was pretty fun. I got a little involved today.”
The Giants have asked Engram to absorb a lot this summer and have called tight end one of the most complicated positions in their offense. His role in the red zone, though, might be the one that comes most naturally to him — and the most important.
The Giants scored a touchdown on only 23 of 43 trips inside the 20-yard line last year, a percentage of 53.5 that ranked 19th in the NFL. To boost that number, the Giants added 6-5 receiver Brandon Marshall and 6-5 tight end Rhett Ellison as free agents during the offseason. They also have the 6-3 Engram, who combines the quickness of a receiver with the size of a tight end.
“It seems like he’s got more power than most DBs expect, because he gets his body into you and propels himself off of you and gets open,” said cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who covered Engram in the slot. “Or he can just beat you with speed. So he’s definitely a threat. He’s definitely shown that, especially in one-on-ones. It seems like he’s always getting open and catching the ball.”
“He’s a target down there [in the red zone], we all see that, we all see the skill set,” McAdoo said. “The challenge for a guy like him is, you move him around, you ask a lot of him, play a lot of different spots, and he can think too much. You think too much playing that position.”
Engram said he is starting to think less.
“There are a lot of small details that I have to be on my toes for,” he said. “Sometimes, when I’m thinking too much, I can’t get into my game and get to what I do best because I’m pretty much thinking about what happened on a certain play or something. But those things are dying down. Today was a really good day from a mental standpoint for me. Still some things to work on, but definitely getting more comfortable in the offense and knowing more of what I’m doing. That definitely allows me to play faster.”
Which is just the way McAdoo wants him to play.