New York Giants need to get Evan Engram back in the mix vs. Oakland
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

After a strong start to the season, it’s been a rough few weeks for New York Giants rookie tight end Evan Engram.

In Evan Engram’s last two games, he has just four receptions for 27 yards and zero touchdowns. In the Giants’ Thanksgiving Day 20-10 loss to the Washington Redskins, he had three key drops that could have changed the momentum of the game.

After that performance, some speculated that Engram may have hit the rookie wall since his production had dramatically declined.

He still leads all rookie tight ends in receptions (44), receiving yards (470), and receiving touchdowns (five). But he hasn’t resembled the player he was a month ago when he scored a touchdown in four consecutive games.

When you’re a rookie playing on a 2-9 team and your performance has dipped, it can be an emotionally challenging time for a rookie. But now Engram is faced with even a bigger challenge—having to play with a new quarterback—as Ben McAdoo benched Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith this week.

Nobody knows what to expect from Smith since this will be the first time he’s seen any significant playing time in two years. But despite Engram’s recent struggles, Smith needs to get him evolved heavily against the Raiders.

Sterling Shepard, who missed the previous two games due to migraines is set to make his return on Sunday. This will help open up things for Engram as he will see fewer double teams.

Even with Smith at quarterback, Engram is still the biggest matchup problems for opposing defenses, and he should be able to break out of his slump against the Raiders.

This season the Raiders defense has allowed 19 receiving touchdowns and have intercepted only one pass.

In their last three games, the Raiders defense has allowed an average of 73 receiving yards to opposing tight ends. So expect Engram to have success against that vulnerable pass defense.

It will be an odd sight for Giants fans to see a healthy Manning on the sidelines and not playing in his 211th consecutive game. But maybe seeing their rookie tight end play like one of the best tight ends in the league again will ease the pain a bit.

Jason's first love was football while growing up in northern New Jersey. For the past three years, he has covered the New York Giants, as well as several boxing events along the East Coast.