New York Giants: What the tight end position would look like without Evan Engram in Week One

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

The New York Giants are preparing for the start of the regular season this week. Their season kicks off on Sunday afternoon with a home game against the Denver Broncos. Today’s injury reports have given fans encouragement on running back Saquon Barkley, however, they have also given a bleak outlook on tight end Evan Engram.

Evan Engram suffered a calf injury in the Giants’ final preseason game this year. The Pro Bowl tight end has been healing up in hopes of playing in Week One. According to Ian Rapoport, Engram has yet to be ruled out for Sunday, however, he is considered a “long-shot” to play.

What the Giants’ offense would look like without Evan Engram

Despite being doubtful to play, the Giants still listed Evan Engram as one of two starting tight ends on their unofficial depth chart ahead of Week One. The Giants like to run a lot of twelve personnel (two-tight end sets). This is why the team lists two first-string tight ends on their depth chart.

The other first-string tight end is Kyle Rudolph. The Giants signed Rudolph this offseason to be a reliable underneath receiver and a top-tier red zone threat. If Evan Engram is unable to play, Rudolph will likely stay in his original secondary role that complements Engram’s primary role. A practice squad tight end could also be promoted to the active roster.

Kaden Smith is listed as the second-string tight end for both starting positions. The Giants are surprisingly holding only three tight ends on their roster going into this season. Kaden Smith is the team’s backup tight end but he is no scrub. Smith has been with the team since 2019 and had an impressive performance in the preseason finale, hauling in a contested 23-yard touchdown reception.

Kaden Smith is a young tight end that has the ability to contribute as a receiver and as a run-blocker. The Giants’ offensive attack might be altered slightly on Sunday if Evan Engram is unable to go. However, Kaden Smith should be able to make up for most of what is lost.

New York Giants: Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph complement each other perfectly

New York Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants spent a lot of resources on their offense this offseason. New York made two big splashes in free agency on the offensive side of the ball and also made some quality depth signings. Wide receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph were the big-name weapons that joined the Giants in March. The Giants also signed John Ross III and Devontae Booker as quality backups.

New York then doubled down on its promise to give Daniel Jones weapons in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. With the 20th overall pick in the draft, the Giants selected wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

The Giants now feel confident that Daniel Jones has the tools at his disposal to create a successful 2021 season. In 2020, New York had a clear lack of talent on offense, averaging only 17.5 points per game. One of the team’s best receiving threats, Evan Engram, struggled tremendously in 2020, dropping 11 passes on the season.

In 2021, Engram could bounce back as the Giants take some pressure off of him in the receiving game. They added a bunch of new weapons to the offense and created good depth at the tight end position heading into 2021.

Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph complement each other perfectly

The good, bad, and ugly of Evan Engram

Evan Engram will return this year as the New York Giants’ starting tight end. However, he will likely share much of his playing time with the newly-signed veteran Kyle Rudolph. Engram and Rudolph’s playing styles complement each other perfectly.

Much has been made of Evan Engram’s drops and struggles in 2020. But many forget that he is still a quality tight end and one of the most athletic and dynamic players at this position in the NFL. Not many tight ends in the NFL can fly through a 40-yard dash at 4.42 seconds. He has true wide receiver speed and elite route running for a tight end. Engram’s release package helped him frequently separate vertically for big gains downfield last season.

Engram’s struggles came when the Giants forced him to sit down in the middle of the field between 0-10 yards from the line of scrimmage. All six of the interceptions thrown while targeting Evan Engram came in that range, as did four of his drops.

The Giants misused Evan Engram in 2020. He played the “Jason Witten role” in Jason Garrett’s offense, rather than the “Blake Jarwin role.” Engram is meant to get vertical and use his precise route running to create separation. But too frequently Garrett used him as an underneath contested-catch option. In 2021, expect to see Kyle Rudolph take over that role while Evan Engram gets used in a more versatile fashion.

Mr. Reliable, Kevin Rudolph

Evan Engram’s inconsistency became too much for Giants fans to bear last season. So the Giants went out and got the most reliable tight end in football to make up for that.

Kyle Rudolph has not dropped a pass in the last two years and is incredible at making contested catches. Rudolph’s contested catch rate since 2016 is 51.9%. Compare this to Evan Engram’s career contested-catch rate of 32.1%, and it’s easy to understand why Kyle Rudolph could be one of the Giants’ most valuable offensive weapons.

Kyle Rudolph also provides the Giants with an elite red zone presence. Of Kyle Rudolph’s 48 career touchdown receptions, 40 of them — 83.3 percent — have come in the red zone (Paul Schwartz of the NY Post).

In 2021, expect to see Kyle Rudolph take over Evan Engram’s role last season as the reliable underneath option in the Giants’ offense. Evan Engram will likely complement that by lining up out wide and in the slot more often so he can utilize his speed and separation-ability to make big gains downfield. These two tight ends will work in tandem to make the New York Giants’ offense a more efficient unit next season.

New York Giants: Evan Engram and teammates to attend Travis Kelce’s TE camp

New York Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants will have an interesting group at tight end this season. Not only did they add Kyle Rudolph during the offseason, but their number one player at the position remains the controversial Evan Engram.

Engram was drafted for one reason, to catch passes – but the tight end has picked up a polarizing reputation due to long injuries and key drops in big moments. Going into the 2021 season, though, it looks like we can expect an effort from Engram to improve his skills.

That includes attending a brand new camp held by current Chief Travis Kelce and retired TE Greg Olsen.

While Engram was initially reported as attending the camp with teammate Kaden Smith, the camp’s official Twitter account later confirmed that Kyle Rudolph will also be present.

The camp so far has many other participants from around the league and aims to help the NFL’s tight ends improve their skills. It seems that the event is set to take place this summer, specifically in June. If it’s a success, we’ll likely see it become an annual happening.

Many fans will say that Engram needs to work on his catching – that aspect of his game has been a consistent problem for him since coming into the league, and even cost the Giants a game sealing first down against the Eagles last season in a matchup they would eventually lose.

But with some of the most prominent pass catching tight ends in the league there, there’s a good chance Engram and the other two Giants come out having learned something.

How should the New York Giants go about the tight end position?

New York Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants recently signed former Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph to a two-year deal. This move leaves the tight end room crowded. Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, and Rysen John make up this position. I think it’s possible that the Giants draft a tight end in the later rounds as well. The Giants obviously can’t carry 6 or 7 tight ends when positions like Cornerback and Wide Receiver need all the depth they can get.

While Big Blue could go in several different directions, here are two realistic options heading into the 2021 season:

Kaden Smith is dropped

Jason Garrett loves running three-tight end sets in the running game, utilizing a jumbo-blocker to open up holes. We predominantly saw this due to the inadequacy of the passing game in 2020, but I expect them to continue with it based on Saquon’s return. Normally, the third tight end in that set is a really good blocker. Kaden Smith was average at best in run blocking last year, and only had 18 total catches to go with it. For some reason, Jason Garrett has an affinity for Levine Toilolo, who’s only good trait is that he’s insanely tall. The Giants already have one tight end who can’t block for his life. Why have two? I would hate to see Smith get dropped, but business is business.

Evan Engram Gets Traded

It feels as if this option is less and less likely to happen as the days go on. Before the signing of Kyle Rudolph, it seemed as if the Giants could draft Kyle Pitts and trade away Evan Engram. Now, the likelihood of the Giants drafting Kyle Pitts at 11 is low. But, let’s say this is an alternate reality where Kyle Rudolph and another tight end take over the starting spots. Evan Engram doesn’t have the best value, due to drops and other issues, but he has some value. I believe the Giants could scrape a 4th round pick at his lowest value. The Giants would clear up $6m in cap space and could sweeten the deal for another free agent like Adoree Jackson.

Should the New York Giants consider trading Evan Engram?

New York Giants, Giants, Evan Engram

The New York Giants did not have many players selected to the Pro Bowl in 2020. One Giants player who was selected to the Pro Bowl, though, was a very controversial selection. The Giants’ offense was putrid this season, averaging only 17.5 points per game. But one player on their offense must have stood out to Pro Bowl voters.

New York Giants tight end Evan Engram was selected to his first career Pro Bowl in 2020 to the surprise of all Giants fans. Most fans felt Engram endured a down season this year, arguably the worst season of his career. Engram posted a career-low in touchdowns this season, reaching the end zone just twice. He also recorded a staggering 11 drops on the year, pulling frustration from Giants fans all season long.

Many fans thought Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan was far more deserving of a Pro Bowl selection after scoring 11 touchdowns, but he was snubbed in place of Evan Engram. Engram is still a young, talented player for the Giants. However, he is entering a contract year and has yet to meet the expectations set out for him after his incredible 2017 rookie season. Now, before New York has to pay Evan in 2022 potentially, the Giants need to decide whether or not they want Evan Engram to be a part of the team’s long-term future.

Should the Giants trade Evan Engram?

Despite his frustrating, drop-filled season, Evan Engram was arguably the most explosive and talented playmaker on the Giants’ offense last season, with Saquon Barkley on injured reserve. Engram still managed to rack up 654 receiving yards in 2020, despite leaving plenty of yards dropped onto the field.

Evan Engram is a talented player who cannot seem to get out of his own way. Maybe a change of scenery is what is best for him. But should the Giants really consider trading their starting tight end?

Replacement on the roster?

The Giants would be thin at the tight end position if they traded Evan Engram. Behind Evan is Kaden Smith and Levine Toilolo. Kaden Smith is a young tight end with decent run-blocking capabilities but is not likely to emerge as a starting-level receiving talent. Toilolo is a pure run-blocker from the tight end position and is in danger of being a cap casualty this offseason.

Drafting a tight end

The Giants do have options to replace Evan Engram if they decide to trade him. One popular name connected to the Giants this offseason if draft prospect Kyle Pitts from the University of Florida. Pitts is a phenomenal tight end prospect that will likely be drafted in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Kyle Pitts totaled 43 receptions for 770 yards and an insane 12 touchdowns in only 8 games in 2020.

The Giants might not want to spend their coveted eleventh overall draft pick on a tight end, though, with much more pressing needs on their roster. New York is in need of a wide receiver and could target one with that pick or use the pick to improve their defense. But maybe the Giants could trade Evan Engram for a high-to-mid-round draft pick and replace him in free agency.

Finding a tight end in free agency

There are a few veteran options that the Giants could consider at tight end in free agency. In his twelfth career season, Jared Cook managed to rack up 504 yards and 7 touchdowns on 37 receptions in 2020. Cook has been one of the NFL’s best tight ends over his entire career and went to back to back Pro Bowls in 2018 and 2019. Despite thirty-three years old, Jared Cook is still playing some of his best football and could provide plenty of value to the Giants on a one-year deal.

Gerald Everett is a bit of a younger and likely pricier option for the Giants in free agency. The twenty-seven-year-old tight end has been with the Los Angeles Rams since his career began in 2017. Everett has been playing a complementary role, playing alongside Tyler Higbee with the Rams. The Rams run a lot of twelve-personnel, though, and Everett has made the most of his snaps. In 2020, Gerald posted a career-high 417 yards on 41 receptions. One red flag on Everett, though, is his six drops this past season. This could have been an anomaly, though, as he posted zero drops in both 2018 and 2019. Maybe a change of scenery could propel Everett into a legitimate starter.

One last high-end, long-shot option the Giants could take a look at in free agency is Hunter Henry. Henry is a twenty-seven-year-old tight end that has dealt with extensive injuries throughout his career. But when Henry is healthy, he performs as one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Henry has played 26 games in the past two seasons. Through those 26 games, Hunter has racked up 9 touchdowns and 1,265 receiving yards.

Hunter Henry is likely to be retained by the Los Angeles Chargers as they try to build around quarterback Justin Herbert. However, if he does hit the open market, Henry will be a highly-coveted free agent and could be a perfect fit for the Giants if they move on from Evan Engram.

New York Giants: Kyler Fackrell to IR, three players return from reserve list

New York Giants, Matt Peart

The New York Giants have the odds stacked against them when they face Seattle on Sunday, to try to remain in first place in the NFC East. However, they’ll have three players back even as they lose one player to the injured reserve list after their last win.

The player that’s headed to the IR is outside linebacker and pass rusher Kyler Fackrell, who went out during the Bengals game with a calf injury. The more significant injury from that game was of course the one that took down QB Daniel Jones, but Jones didn’t need to be placed on the IR because it’s believed he could still return for the Seahawks game – and if Jones doesn’t come back then, his return should be shortly after.

It’s not all bad news for the Giants. The team does gain three players back after they were previously placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Those players are tight end Kaden Smith, offensive tackle Matt Peart, and receiver Dante Pettis.

The most significant of the players to come back may be Peart, who was in direct competition with top draft pick Andrew Thomas earlier in the season. Considering his status as a third round pick, Peart has been one of the overachievers for the Giants this season.

Kaden Smith, on the other hand, has seen less use this season compared to Evan Engram but offers further depth at the tight end position.

The latest round of roster moves also includes dropping punter Ryan Santoso, who was primarily signed to the team due to the temporary loss of Graham Gano.

New York Giants: Evan Engram talks new offense, individual future

New York Giants, Evane Engram

Evan Engram is entering his fourth season in the NFL and is projected to be the New York Giants starting tight end for a fourth consecutive season. He’ll be doing so in a new offense, administered by former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, the team’s new offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, former Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens is the Giants’ new tight ends coach.

Engram sees a “good” offense at training camp (quotes per Giants.com’s Dan Salomone).

“It’s a good offense in my eyes…Tight end, in general, is a very detail-specific position. There are a lot of things we have to learn.”

The Giants exercised Engram’s fifth-year option in April, keeping the tight end in North Jersey through 2021. Engram is focused on the present, though.

“I’m not too worried about that right now. We have a lot on our plate with the offense.”

“I can only control what’s in front of me each and every day.”

Engram has missed 13 of a possible 32 games over the last two seasons due to injuries. The tight end views being around his teammates again as a “blessing.”

“I take it as a blessing just to be back around my guys.”

Last season Engram totaled 44 receptions, 467 yards, and three touchdowns across eight games, six of which were starts. For his career, the Ole Miss product has totaled 153 receptions, 1,766 yards, and 12 touchdowns.

Tight end Kaden Smith, who the Giants acquired off waivers during the 2019 regular season, started in place of Engram and Rhett Ellison, who were each hurt, in the second half of last season. Smith totaled 31 receptions, 268 yards, and three touchdowns. Engram and Smith will be accompanied by free-agent signee Levine Toilolo, formally of the San Francisco 49ers.

For his career, the 6-foot-8 Toilolo has totaled 97 receptions, 996 yards, and eight touchdowns. He agreed to a two-year, $6.2 million deal with the Giants in free agency. Toilolo previously spent time with the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons.

New York Giants: Kaden Smith Has Breakout Potential In 2020

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

The New York Giants will likely run a lot more twelve-personnel in 2020. With the recent hiring of Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator, the team’s offense is set to emphasize a heavy usage of the tight end position.

Luckily for the Giants, they have just the personnel to run two-tight end sets. The Gmen have two capable tight ends on their roster: Evan Engram and Kaden Smith. Engram is an explosive, versatile receiving threat who can be a matchup-nightmare at the tight end position. Kaden Smith is quite the opposite, however, his playstyle might be even more fitting to the Giants’ new offensive scheme.

Kaden Smith Stats and Highlights

Kaden Smith is a solid, reliable tight end. He is not the fastest guy nor the best route runner, but he has dependable hands and good run-blocking skills. Jason Garret utilizes a run-heavy offensive scheme that leans on the tight ends to make key blocks. Evan Engram has struggled as a run-blocker in his career, but Kaden Smith might flourish in this role.

Kaden Smith, the undrafted rookie out of Standford, is an excellent blocker from the tight end position. He did a superb job as a lead blocker once he was put into the starting lineup in Week 12. Take this block against the Washington Redskins as a perfect example:

Jason Garrett is a bright offensive mind and he will carve out a defined role for Evan Engram in 2020. This role will maximize his athleticism and receiving talents. But a role will also be carved out for Kaden Smith as he enters his second season. Throughout Garrett’s time in Dallas, he coached one of the greatest tight ends to ever play the sport: Jason Witten.

Witten was never an extraordinary athlete or explosive route runner. But he was always a dependable receiver with a high football IQ that allowed him to find soft spots in defenses and get open. Witten was also an excellent run-blocker. This is similar to Kaden Smith’s playing style. He could fit that Witten role in Garrett’s offense with the Giants.

In his 5 games as a starter in 2019, Kaden Smith caught 22 of his 30 targets (73% catch rate) for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was one of the most dependable receivers on the field for the Giants. Likely receiving an expanded role in 2020, Kaden Smith could have a breakout season in store for the Giants.

Be sure to check out our Kaden Smith highlight video on YouTube here:

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New York Giants: Kaden Smith could be a big piece to the offensive puzzle in 2020

New York Giants, Evan Engram, Kaden Smith

When the New York Giants acquired Kaden Smith as a free agent in 2019, they likely didn’t imagine they would be gaining a potential starting tight end.

Smith forwent his senior season in college to declare for the 2019 NFL draft, having broken out in 2018 with Stanford. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the sixth round but was ultimately cut during training camp.

Good news for the Giants, as they were gaining a tight end with exceptional talent and solid physical traits.

With the number of injuries the Giants faced in 2019, Smith became a focal point on offense rather quickly. Evan Engram suffered a season-ending foot injury against the New England Patriots, forcing him out and into a walking boot. Engram has been training this off-season vigorously to return to full health and prepare for the 2020 season.

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Kaden Smith emerged early on for the New York Giants

Smith played his first game in week 12 against the Chicago Bears, where he secured five catches and one touchdown. He became a security blanket for quarterback Daniel Jones, who saw most of his playmakers go down with injury.

Smith was an unexpected depth piece who played way above his weight class for a rookie. In the season finale, Smith posted 98 yards on eight catches, a career-high. Despite his average speed, Smith showed potential as a blocker in the run game and was decent in the short to intermediate passing game.

New offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is expected to utilize 12 personnel sets frequently in his first year with the Giants, which will incorporate Smith. The Giants also brought in Levine Toilolo, former tight end for the 49ers, who likely already has some experience with Smith from his short time on the team last year. Toilolo is primarily a blocking tight end, meant to replace Rhett Ellison.

The former Stanford player will be looking to build upon his 268 yards and three touchdowns campaign in year one. At just 22 years old, he posted a 73.8 catch rate and logged 31 receptions. He is now 23 and is considered a potential starter for the Giants on offense. While the expectations are undoubtedly present, Smith has the tools around him to develop into a quality player.

New York Giants: Is Kaden Smith the next star at tight end?

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

It was no surprise when the New York Giants picked up the fifth-year option of tight end Evan Engram, considering the value he brings to the offense when completely healthy.

The Giants currently have Engram, Levine Toilolo, and Kaden Smith as their primary tight ends. Engram played in just eight games in 2019, recording a career-low 467 yards and three touchdowns. He also saw a regression in catch rate at 64.7%. If he can remain healthy, Engram can be one of the better-receiving tights ends in the NFL, considering his rookie season where he played in just 72% of offensive snaps and posted 722 yards and six scores.

The ability he brings to the team is incredible, but having a solidified back up, and secondary tight end that can also feature in 12 personnel is essential. Kaden Smith is a potential key to the offense in 2020.

In his rookie campaign with the Giants, Smith posted 268 yards and three touchdowns on just 41% of snaps. With an increased work rate, Smith has the potential to develop significantly moving forward.

Smith does have some deficiencies he needs to improve upon, as he fumbled twice in 2019, recovering both of them. Holding onto the ball and working on his route running are two factors that will need reinforcement.

With former Cleveland Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens taking over the tight end unit, Smith will have a fantastic coach to help him develop his skill set. At just 23 years old this year, Smith is not only a young athlete, but he’s also extremely intelligent coming out of Stanford. I fully expect Smith to develop into a key piece for the Giants moving forward, and if he can strengthen his run blocking, he will be a primary security blanket for Daniel Jones in the passing game and a catalyst for Saquon Barkley in the running game.