With the departure of Odell Beckham Jr., a big-time opportunity is present. Is Evan Engram ready to be Eli Manning’s go-to guy in 2019?

Jason Leach

New York Giants third-year tight end Evan Engram is heading into the most pivotal year of his career. Over his first two seasons, Engram has shown at times that he can be one of the most explosive tight ends in the league.

But his subpar blocking and injuries have held him back from reaching his full potential. Due to this and the fact that general manager Dave Gettleman has parted ways with players from the Jerry Reese era, Engram may feel his place with the Giants an unsteady one.

But earlier this week, head coach Pat Shurmur gave a ringing endorsement to Engram that seemed to put his place with the Giants on solid grounds.

“On tight end Evan Engram, who missed five games with injuries but caught 19 passes in the season’s final three games. “When he got healthier, he was able to produce in a way we think he can. He had production when he was in there, but then he got hurt a few times. By the end, he was feeling good, running well and playing well. That is a function of Evan doing his thing. … He can block. I think he can block better than you do. I think his whole game improved when he became healthy. He is a willing blocker.”

Now that his coach has supported him verbally, this should give the lone first-round pick remaining from the Jerry Reese era, confidence that he’ll be a Giant going forward.

In his two seasons with Big Blue, Engram has caught 109 passes for 1,299 yards and nine touchdowns. Following the Giants trade of Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns a few weeks ago, Engram is poised to have the biggest season of his career as Eli Manning’s new go-to guy.

The Giants will surely use several players such as Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer and, newly acquired Golden Tate to fill in the void the Beckham leaves behind. But with the Engram’s size, speed and athleticism, he presents the biggest mismatch the Giants have in the passing game. He’s too fast for linebackers to cover and too big for defensive backs. So when Manning needs a big play, he’ll look to Engram.

We saw glimpses at the end of last season in specific relation to what Engram can do as Manning’s go-to guy.

Over the final four games of the season with Beckham, Engram caught 22 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown. Whenever Manning needed a big play, Engram was the guy he went to. Now the question is, “Can he do it over a 16 game schedule?”

For Engram to live up to the Giants first-round pick hype (23rd overall), he must improve on his blocking and find a way to avoid injury which caused him to miss six games in his two seasons.

It will be hard for the New York Giants offense to replace a special talent like Beckham, but if 24-year-old Evan Engram can manage to stay healthy, not only will he establish himself as a number one receiving option, but he might earn his first Pro Bowl selection.

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.