After a disappointing Week 1 performance, will further struggles put New York Giants tight end Evan Engram on the hot seat?
When making a decision on a certain employee — whether to demote or promote them or any type of choice you may have to come up with — pros and cons need to be weighed. Comparing the positives vs. the negatives is a conversation that needs to be had, whether it be an easy one or one that possesses a number of difficulties.
With that said, it may not be too long before the New York Giants need to have that type of conversation in regard to starting tight end Evan Engram. I’m not saying they’re going to ponder getting rid of him, but it may be reasonable to think they could alter his role or, need I say it, move him out of the starting lineup.
With the exception of his promising rookie campaign — a season in which he led the team with 64 receptions and six touchdowns — what consistent production has he brought to this ballclub?
Sure, Engram is one of the more versatile and athletic tight ends in the league if he’s healthy, to the point where he can essentially be used as an extra receiver. But that’s a big “if.” Since his entrance into the league, he’s missed nearly an entire season — 14 games to be exact.
The injuries have also been more of an issue in recent years. He only missed one matchup in 2017 but then went on to sit out five and eight games in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
He’s proven to be someone not capable of catching every single ball thrown his way either, we saw that during Big Blue’s loss to Pittsburgh on Monday. The fourth-year player dropped a pair of throws on seven targets while racking up just two catches for nine yards.
Engram’s two drops are already nearing his total in that category from last year — three (in eight games).
And the blocking? Not all that fantastic either. It’s another issue that came to light on Monday.
Numerous instances occurred in which a missed block by the Ole Miss product proved to be crucial, including early in the game when Steelers edge rusher T.J. Watt forced an incompletion of Daniel Jones near the goal line, an incompletion that actually should’ve been ruled a fumble. All in all, per Pro Football Focus, Engram’s pass-blocking grade was a horrific 18.2.
The run blocking wasn’t exactly a pretty sight either; his Week 1 Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade — 32.9 — was last in the NFL for tight ends.
I hope he improves in a number of areas, and I’m sure Giants fans and general football fans do as well. There’s no denying that when he’s on, he’s one of the more fun tight ends to watch in this league. But at this moment in time, there may be more downside than upside. The negatives may currently outweigh the positives, and if this all continues, demoting him or altering his role may be a conversation worth having.
The Giants could possibly use him as more of a slot receiver, which would, in turn, help the offense spread the field a little more and give Jones another option in those regards. This could be beneficial now given Golden Tate’s injury woes.
So who would then replace Engram in the tight end role?
Kaden Smith is a promising option who the organization has been high on since last year. Not to mention, he’s additionally versatile in his own right. Smith could be used on running downs as an extra blocker for Saquon Barkley and could also be utilized in the passing game. The second-year pro recorded a pair of receptions for 17 yards on Monday night and additionally caught 31 balls for 268 yards and three scores in 2019.
Smith also built a productive rapport with Jones last year, especially during the Week 16 win over Washinton. In the midst of that very matchup, he notched a pair of touchdown receptions, including the game-winner in overtime.
And if the Giants wish to use Smith in the passing game but still have another tight end in there to help protect Jones — which was an issue during Week 1 — they could utilize Levine Toilolo, who’s more of a blocking tight end anyway. The Giants portrayed some form of confidence in him on Monday, given he was on the field for 35% of the team’s offensive snaps.
All I’m saying is this: Engram must improve, right the wrongs, and prove that there’s more upside to the Giants’ investment in him than downside. If the struggles continue, there’s a chance he could find himself on the hot seat in regard to his current role.