Evan Engram usually doesn’t pay much attention to outside criticism or nitpicking analysts. These days he’s got enough to do just focusing on his playbook and learning the system as a rookie tight end for the Giants, a first-round pick and a potentially big piece of the offense in 2017.
But there is a slight that seems to be gnawing at him. The one knock against him coming into the NFL from college is that he is not considered a strong blocker, that he may have trouble lining up as an in-line tight end at this level.
“I don’t pay much mind to it, I don’t take it personally,” Engram said on Friday. “But I put it in my tank when I go to work.”
The problem is that he can’t do anything to prove that presumption wrong. Not yet, anyway.
The Giants – and all NFL teams – still are practicing without pads and won’t be getting anywhere close to full contact until at least the start of training camp in late July. Engram said he is excited for that time to come. Until then, all the Giants coaches can say about Engram is that he “seems” to be a “willing blocker.”
Engram wants to erase those caveats.
“That’s what people would call a downfall to my game,” he said. “I’m willing to show my worth in that aspect. I think if I really become great in that aspect of the game and be a force with that, I’ll just be a better all-around player.”
Engram’s brightest-shining skill is his speed. He blew up the 40-yard dash at the Combine in 4.42 seconds and showed himself to be a precise route-runner in four years at Ole Miss. There, he played in a spread offense and was was called upon to actually hit anyone.
Earlier this offseason, Ben McAdoo said it was unfair to judge Engram as a blocker, since he wasn’t asked to do it in college. Now, though, the Giants are starting to visualize his capabilities in that art.
“He shows very much a willingness to block and to finish and strain the way we’re asking our guys to strain,” tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride said earlier this week. “Again, that’s not in pads so that’ll change things to an extent, but I don’t see him backing down. He has a toughness and a willingness to go against anyone on our defense and I’m hoping that remains through the course of this season.”
Gilbride said when he first saw Engram at the Combine he was surprised by his size: 6-3 and 234 pounds. Many Giants players, too, have been impressed by that stature. He certainly looks the part of an all-around tight end, even if wasn’t sold that way when the Giants first drafted him.
Back then he was seen as a pass-catching threat, another weapon for Eli Manning and a piece to help change the way defenses cover the Giants. He’s shown that throughout OTAs, forging an early chemistry with the quarterback.
Eventually, though, he’s hoping to show the Giants – and his critics – that he can be so much more.