The New York Giants have dealt with a multitude of injuries during this 2019 NFL season. While these injuries do not excuse the team’s lack of success, they certainly do not help the team improve. But, in some rare cases, these injuries allowed for a few bright spots to shine through.
Young, backup players thrust into starting roles were able to make a name for themselves this season. The Giants are a rebuilding team and have started rookies just about everywhere. And some of these rookies have been pleasantly surprising.
Nick Gates has stood out on the offensive line, Julian Love has made plays at safety, and Darius Slayton has gotten better with every role increase. And now, towards the season’s end, another rookie has flashed starter-potential. Undrafted rookie tight end Kaden Smith has been reliable, consistent, and healthy, and could find himself in a prominent role next season.
Injuries at Tight End
The Giants have dealt with a cornucopia of injuries at the tight end position. Evan Engram started the season off hot before being shut down with a season-ending injury. Despite playing in only 8 games, Engram totaled 467 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns on 44 receptions. Additionally, the Giants’ backup tight end, Rhett Ellison, suffered an injury in Week 10 and has not seen the field since.
Evan Engram is a super versatile, ultra-talented player at his position. He has shown more than enough to instill belief in the Giants that he can be one of the league’s best tight ends. Unfortunately, injuries continue to get in the way. Engram played in only 11 games last year, and that number fell to only 8 games this year. If Evan Engram wants to have a future on this team, he needs to prove he can stay healthy.
The extraordinary talent and athletic ability of Evan Engram could garner excellent trade offers in the offseason. The Giants, being that they are rebuilding their roster, could look to trade Evan away for draft picks. While some might say this would be giving up on a player too soon, others would point out that it is not worth it to pay a player who is injured too often to play, and could be worth a pretty penny in the trade market. Not to mention, the Giants might have found a diamond in the rough to replace Evan Engram.
Kaden Smith Stats and Highlights
One knock on Evan Engram through his first three seasons has been his subpar blocking. Admittedly, he has improved every year. However, he is still more of a receiver playing tight end than anything. But the Giants’ current starting tight end has shown he can do a bit of both.
Kaden Smith, the undrafted rookie out of Standford, is an excellent blocker from the tight end position. He has done a superb job as a lead blocker since being put into the starting lineup in Week 12. Take this block against the Washington Redskins as a perfect example:
Kaden Smith is not just a great blocking tight end, in any case. Smith can make an impact as a pass-catcher, too. In his 5 games as a starter, Kaden Smith has caught 22 of his 30 targets (73% catch rate) for 170 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has been one of the most dependable receivers on the field for the Giants.
He might not have the athletic ability and positional versatility that Evan Engram has, but Kaden Smith has the toughness, grit, and dependability that is necessary at his position. Kaden’s game-winning touchdown against the Redskins is an excellent example of how he has enough speed and route-separation to make plays as a tight end.
Evan Engram is hugely talented. The Giants should probably give him another season to prove he can stay healthy and productive. But if they decide to take what they can get for him instead, it looks like the tight end position will be in good hands.