With New York Giants training camp beginning in late July, BigBlueInteractive.com (BBI) breaks down each of the team’s positional groups until the players report at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN: Tight Ends
2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: The tight end position was one of the few bright spots in another wise dreary season for the New York Giants in 2017. Despite a bad case of the dropsies, rookie tight end Evan Engram led the team with 64 catches for a near team-high 722 yards and a team-high six touchdown receptions. Rhett Ellison may have been overpaid and underutilized, but he was solid contributor as a blocker and receiver. He caught a career-high 24 passes, which made him the 7th-highest receptions leader on the team. Jerell Adams was the third tight end and finished the year with eight catches.
ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: The top three tight ends from last year – Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Jerell Adams – all return. The Giants also retained late-season addition Ryan O’Malley. The newcomers are January waiver-wire pick-up Kyle Carter from the Vikings, ex-Raider and ex-Panther Scott Simonson, and rookie free agent Garrett Dickerson. Carter and Dickerson are built more like H-Backs than traditional in-line tight ends.
TRAINING CAMP STORY LINES: While most of the eyes of the media and fans will be focused on Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley, the development of Evan Engram will be one of the most important facets of the team to watch. One gets the sense that Engram just scratched the surface of his potential in 2017. On a terrible team with few weapons, Engram produced at a level that few rookie tight ends achieve. Now with hopefully better offensive coaching, a better offensive system, and a better supporting cast, Engram should be poised to become one of the more dangerous pass-receiving tight ends in the League. A couple of under-reported aspects from the offseason workouts were (1) Eli Manning’s favorite target appeared to be Engram, and (2) Engram didn’t drop passes.
What will also be interesting to see will be how important the tight end position is in Pat Shurmur’s New York Giants offensive scheme. Most Giants fans know that Ben McAdoo was particularly wed to the three-wide receiver, one-back, one-tight end formation (or 11 personnel). Will Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams, or others get a chance to see the field more in 2018?
Also under-reported is that the Giants have a new tight ends coach. Lunda Wells was the assistant offensive line coach for the Giants under both Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo. He now shifts to a new position.
ON THE BUBBLE: Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison are locks to make the team. Jerell Adams probably has an upper hand, but the team did bring in some players – including an ex-Viking who worked with Pat Shurmur in Minnesota – who could beat him out if he falters. At this point, it is impossible to know how important the tight end/H-Back position will be in terms of numbers of players kept on the roster. The role of fullback will be a factor too in whether or not the Giants keep three or four tight ends.
FROM THE COACHES AND PLAYERS: Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells on Evan Engram: “He’s a guy that we all understand he has a unique skillset in terms of the pass game, but he’s a very sharp kid and he can do a little bit of it all. I can’t say that I can see him as just a guy that is split out because I think we’d be doing an injustice to him because he is a very sharp kid and a willing blocker and a guy that’s willing to do everything that goes into it. He’s a guy that we can play at the Y-tight end, we can split him out. I think you’re going to see some of that this year in terms of him being able to play in a lot of different spots.”
Head Coach Pat Shurmur on Evan Engram: “The fact that we have a pass catching tight end is something that is very valuable to a team because now a defense has to decide when you have two tight ends and him being one of them, him being Evan, that are they going to stay base or play nickel? And then the chess game begins from there.”
Evan Engram on year two: “The thing I’ve noticed, just being out here, going full-speed, is that the game is a lot more slowed down. The game has slowed down a lot. And that’s allowing me to kind of dig deeper into my bag of route techniques, or getting open and being able to focus more on the run game and getting stronger and just getting more comfortable out there. Last year, I kind of was, head was on a swivel a lot, the game was so fast and I wasn’t used to it. But just having a year under my belt and kind of getting thrown into some tough situations last year definitely helps slow the game down and allowed me to kind of focus on a lot of the little things and enhance my talents to be a better player.”
PREDICTIONS: I think there is a good chance that Evan Engram once again leads the team in catches and touchdown receptions. I think he will also break the 1,000-yard mark in receiving yards.
FINAL DEPTH CHART: The same three from last year – Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, and Jerell Adams. The Giants could carry four tight ends which would help the chances of one of the other four players.