Evan Engram knows everyone wants more.
The questions are these: How much more? And is he capable of delivering?
Will Engram ever be able to give Giants fans what they want from their talented fifth-year tight end (which is production somewhere between Mark Bavaro and Travis Kelce)?
Is this fair to Engram?
But his production through his first four NFL seasons has neither aligned with his talent level nor the place in which selected in the 2017 draft, 23rd overall.
Engram’s career average of 54 receptions and 11.2 yards per catch and a total of just 13 TDs have left Giants fans wanting for more. Those are hardly awful numbers, but there always seems to be something missing from Engram.
He’s a nice player who appears to have the skills to be a dominant player. This, to date, has been the narrative of Engram’s career. It’s an annoying narrative and one that he’d desperately like to change in 2021.
Engram, who’s universally lauded by teammates and coaches for his hard work, does what he can to block out the outside noise, but it’s only human nature for it to gnaw at him.
“I’m definitely not listening to all that stuff,’’ he said this week at training camp. “All the opinions I care about are in this building and my family, and I’m working really hard each and every day to attack each day and attack the 24 hours I have.
“I’m in this building 24 hours every day,’’ he went on. “Every day, I have a job to do, every day I have something to attack, something to get better at. I’m not worried about yesterday, I’m not worried about last year, I’m focused on going ahead.’’
He may not listen to the outside world, but there’s little doubt that Engram hears it.
“There’s always external pressure and external expectations,’’ Giants coach Joe Judge said. “We have to keep our focus very narrow and keep it on the present. We can’t do anything about six months from now. We have to go day-by-day, so the expectation is come to work every day, do your job the best you can, be detailed in how you work and put yourself in a good position.
“The one thing I’ll say with Evan, I’ve always noticed from day one, is this guy comes to work and does everything that’s asked of him [and] he does it with a positive attitude,’’ Judge continued. “He’s a guy we have a lot of expectations for internally. He’s a guy that we rely on for a lot of things. He brings a lot of leadership to our team. He’s someone that the team knows him through how he works and prepares that they can rely on. He’s a positive influence on our locker room.
“In terms of any kind of projections and what someone can do, we can all do our jobs better.’’
Part of what has held Engram back and kept him from producing top-of-the-league numbers instead of the middle-of-the-road numbers he has produced is his health. Until last season, he had a hard time staying on the field at times. In 2018, he missed five games to injury. In 2019, he missed half the season.
Engram finally played a full 16-game season in 2020. Though his production was solid, it didn’t stand out.
There were still too many dropped passes. The most egregious came in a pivotal 22-21 loss at Philadelphia, in which he let a perfect Daniel Jones third-down pass slip through his hands while wide open for a TD. The Giants were leading 21-16 at the time, just before the two-minute warning. If Engram had made that catch, he likely would have iced the game for the Giants.
Engram tied his rookie season high of 11 dropped passes in 2020. In 2018 and 2019, Engram dropped only six passes combined, but he played a total of only 19 games in that span.
Engram was fourth in the league among tight ends last year in number of targets with 109. So, it’s not as if he’s not getting the ball. Opportunities to make big plays are there. Yet he scored only one receiving TD in 2020. His receptions-per-target rate was just 57.8 last season, which is too low.
“He’s definitely difficult to match up against, because he’s in between a receiver and tight end, so he gives safeties and linebackers a problem because he’s so athletic and he gives cornerbacks problems because he’s so big and strong,’’ Giants cornerback James Bradberry said.
“He’s a tough, tough, tough guard for sure,’’ Giants safety Xavier McKinney said. “Man, he’s fast, he’s strong, he can run routes, he can catch, so he can do it all.’’
Will this be the year Engram finally does it all, fulfilling his potential and silencing the grumbling Giants fans?