Evan Engram earned Pro Bowl honors with the New York Giants in 2020, but it was a rare high point from a time the tight end was glad to put behind him. Engram joined the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency last offseason and he’s admitted life with the Giants “just wasn’t for me.”
Speaking on the 2nd Wind podcast, Engram admitted he “had to grow up” after a difficult time in New York: “I wanted to be great where I got drafted … but that just wasn’t for me. At the end of the day, I needed Jacksonville. I needed the coaches I had there, I needed the relationships I’ve built with the guys there.”
Engram detailed how he changed thanks to “the best time of my life” during his first season with the Jaguars: “It was the first time in my career where I didn’t want to leave the building. It was a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, I’m in the building just staying because I want to work, I want to watch more film, I’m staying with Trevor (Lawrence) after the day is over watching film with him.”
The difference between Engram with the Giants and what he produced in Jacksonville was night and day. He set career-high marks with 73 catches for 766 yards and emerged as the type of roving playmaker the Giants hoped they were getting when they selected Engram 23rd overall in the 2017 NFL draft.
In the meantime, the Giants’ own options at tight end lacked dynamism, a problem they hope the offseason trade for Pro-Bowler Darren Waller will solve.
1st-Rounder Struggled to Adapt to Life in New York
Things didn’t work out for Engram in a tough New York market. The player detailed how witnessing the reaction reserved for two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Eli Manning opened his eyes about expectations with the Giants: “They were killing him.”
Talking about Giants’ fans, Engram said “when you do good, they love you. When you do bad, like, they going to let you know. They not going to let you forget either. They love you, they hate you, they love you again, like, that’s just what it is.”
Engram also wasn’t ready for the response he got during injury layoffs: When I’m on the field, I was ballin’. Like, when I was healthy, I was doing my thing, but when I was hurt, like obviously, I’m not playing, so like, people were killing me.”
Staying healthy was a problem for Engram during his career with the Giants. He missed 16 games with several injuries, including concussions and knee and foot problems.
There were different setbacks when Engram made it onto the field, and he spoke candidly about his issues dropping passes: “I had a lot of drops. I had some key drops in some big games that, like, at the end of the day hurt my team.”
Engram was guilty of 23 drops in four seasons, with 11 of those occurring during the 2020 campaign, per Pro Football Reference. Lapses like those made it easy for the Giants to move on from Engram when Joe Schoen took over as general manager and Brian Daboll became head coach in 2022.
The decision to part ways looked like it backfired when Engram finally emerged as a consistent weapon with the Jaguars.
Giants Still Searching for Game-Changer at Tight End
Engram gave the Giants a glimpse of what they were missing when the two teams met in Week 7. The Giants won 23-17, but Engram turned four catches into 67 yards, including this impressive catch highlighted by Nate Tice of The Athletic.
A pass-catcher capable of stretching the field from the slot is something the Giants need to expand a pedestrian aerial attack. Their pass offense generated a league-low 28 completions of 20-plus yards last season, but Engram averaged over 11 yards per reception seven times for the Jags.
It’s a quality the Giants are counting on former Las Vegas Raiders’ star Waller to emulate. He’s averaged 12 yards a catch for his career and proved his enduring ability to stretch the seams with this grab against the New England Patriots.
If he can stay healthy, Waller should quickly become a staple of an offense designed and called by Daboll and coordinator Mike Kafka. They need No. 83 to make the position his own after 2022 fourth-round pick Daniel Bellinger lost five games to an eye injury that required surgery.
A Waller and Bellinger double act can give quarterback Daniel Jones the inside targets he needs to take his game up a level after signing a four-year contract worth $160 million. The combination can also make the Giants forget about how well Engram is doing without them.