Rookie Evan Engram has emerged as Eli’s go-to receiver
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — With all the injuries to the New York Giants’ receivers, rookie tight end Evan Engram has emerged as the go-to guy for Eli Manning.
The first-round draft pick has caught 11 passes for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games. He also has been the only receiver to get open on a consistent basis since Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard sustained ankle injuries in a loss to the Chargers on Oct. 8.
While Beckham and Marshall are out for the season following surgeries, the Giants (1-6) are hopeful that Shepard will be able to return Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams (5-2).
“It’s opportunity,” Engram said. “It’s something to seize and something to kind of just work at. I have to show. I have a lot on my shoulders and I have to make plays. Guys around me are working hard, too, so that kind of pushes me, too.”
The Giants thought Engram was something special coming into the season. The former Mississippi product can create mismatches against defenders.
He is one of the fastest tight ends in the league, so it would be hard for opponents to cover him with a linebacker or safety, and he is just bigger than most cornerbacks.
“He brings a lot to the table and it would be foolish of us to not try to find ways to get him the football,” offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said Thursday after practice.
“From a matchup standpoint, he’s someone that creates some issues for defenses. We want to continue to be creative to find ways to feature him and do things that he can do.”
In the past two games, Manning is 30 of 58 for 262 yards and two touchdowns. More than a third of the completions, 54 percent of the yards and 100 percent of the touchdowns have gone to Engram, who has been targeted on 19 of the 58 attempts.
Engram said he has spent a lot of time working on his technique and getting a chance to do his thing on Sundays.
“It’s definitely fun,” Engram said. “As a competitor and a receiver, you want the ball and the opportunity, so definitely it has been fun.”
It’s also good being a tight end. It’s a position where the player moved around a lot and that makes it a little more difficult to double him.
“We do a lot with multiple tight ends as well so that puts a lot on the defense’s plate,” said Engram, who leads the Giants with 30 catches for 342 yards and three touchdowns.
Rookie quarterback Davis Webb said Engram has improved every week since joining the team. It’s allowed Manning to trust him more.
“I just think when opportunity comes, you have to be ready to take it and Evan and done a good job so far,” Webb said.
NOTES: LB B.J. Goodson (ankle), T Justin Pugh (back), C Weston Richburg (concussion), DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) and DE Kerry Wynn (knee) each missed their second straight day of practice. LB Jonathan Casillas (neck), CB Donte Deayon (ankle), LB Calvin Munson (quad) were limited. S Nat Berhe (calf), TE Rhett Ellison (not injury related), Shepard (ankle) and DT Robert Thomas (calf) were upgraded to full-go in practice. Ellison’s wife had their first child, a baby girl. If Goodson can’t play, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said LBs Keenan Robinson, Munson and Curtis Grant would call the defensive plays.