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.

New York Giants: 3 offensive breakout candidates for the 2020 season

The New York Giants‘ offense is primed for a breakout season in 2020. After two years with head coach Pat Shurmur running the offense, New York is taking a different approach in 2020. The Gmen hired Joe Judge as their next head coach and he assembled a phenomenal coaching staff. Judge made a splash on offense, hiring former Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as the team’s next offensive coordinator. With a new scheme in place, who on the Giants’ roster is primed for a breakout season in 2020?

Darius Slayton

Some might argue that Darius Slayton already broke out in his rookie 2019 season. But I will argue that Slayton has an opportunity to take his game to the next level in 2020. Darius saw his role increase week by week in the 2019 offensive game plan. In 2020, with a more reliable coordinator in Jason Garrett, Slayton will be featured in a prominent role.

Darius Slayton finished his rookie season with 48 receptions on 84 targets, totaling 740 yards and an impressive 8 touchdowns. Slayton’s knack for finding the end zone makes him a playmaking threat in the Giants’ new offense. Jason Garrett’s offense typically relies on an outside receiving threat, such as Dez Bryant and Michael Gallup. At 6-1, 190 pounds, Slayton can effectively fill that role.

Evan Engram

Evan Engram is another player that fans could argue has already had a breakout season. But has he really? Sure, Engram was dominant in his rookie season, totaling 722 yards and 6 touchdowns. But, in that season, Engram received 155 targets because, believe it or not, he was the only player on offense that could stay healthy. This was during that dreaded 3-13 2017 season that saw Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, and Sterling Shepard all miss significant time with injuries.

Since then, Engram has not looked the same. He is now known amongst the Giants fan base as the super talented player that cannot stay healthy. He has yet to play 16 games in a season and has seen his total games played decrease each year. Evan Engram hit a real low point in 2019, playing in 8 games and starting only 6 of them.

But once again, the arrival of Jason Garrett bodes well for Evan’s future. Garrett loves utilizing the tight end position. Giants fans should know this better than anyone, after watching Jason Witten tear our defense apart for over a decade. Hopefully, Garrett can utilize Engram in a similar fashion and make him a staple in the Giants’ offense. Witten once received 147 targets in a season, so maybe an increased number of targets will lead to increased efficiency and production from Evan Engram in his fourth season.

Kaden Smith

So what if I am wrong and 2020 is not the year that Evan Engram finally plays 16 games and breaks out? Well, then, expect to see backup tight end Kaden Smith have a breakout season.

Kaden Smith was one of Daniel Jones’s favorite targets towards the end of the 2019 season. He was given the opportunity to start in the final 6 weeks of the 2019 season and was impressive, hauling in 30 receptions for 267 yards and 3 touchdowns to end the year.

One could argue that Smith is actually a better fit in Jason Garrett’s offense. Kaden is known as a solid blocker from the tight end position and has a playing style more similar to Jason Witten than Evan Engram does. Engram will be used in a more versatile role, but Smith could end up being a mini-Witten of sorts. He has that big strong body, he is durable, and he can block as well as he can catch. Even if Evan Engram stays healthy this season, there is a good chance that Kaden Smith’s compatibility in Garrett’s offense leads him into a breakout 2020 season.

New York Giants Tight End Room Takes A Hit With Rhett Ellison Retirement

New York Giants, Rhett Ellison

Rhett Ellison may have never been a dominating player during his career, but that doesn’t mean the tight end wasn’t important for the New York Giants. He backed up Evan Engram, but since Engram isn’t the most reliable player and has missed time over the past couple of seasons with injury, and hasn’t always played the best when he is on the field and healthy, backup tight end has been a somewhat relevant position for the Giants over recent years.

It’s one of the primary reasons why Rhett Ellison started 12 games in 2018 and 7 in 2019 – during both seasons, the Giants had big expectations for Engram, who let down in both of them with 8 and 6 starts respectively and three touchdowns on the year both times.

The Giants also released Scott Simonson this offseason, removing from the roster a player who was seen at times when neither Ellison or Engram were on the field.

The fact that there’s no Simonson on the team now makes Ellison’s retirement due to concussion hit the Giants’ tight end room harder – in 2020, if they don’t add anyone else, they’ll have to rely on Evan Engram and Kaden Smith. The latter only joined the team in 2019 and had the same amount of touchdowns as Engram in less games. He could be a game changer, but it’s hard to know. We don’t have a sample size, and other teams will have more film on Smith this year.

The other player is Evan Engram. Despite being eternally promising, we have yet to see Engram repeat his rookie season. It was hard for Engram to even stay on the field last season with injury trouble hitting him hard, which is why it was somewhat strange that the Giants have shown a commitment in keeping him instead of moving on before it’s too late to get something good in return.

Assuming the Giants don’t add anyone else to their roster, they’ll have to go into this season with just Engram and Smith as their main options, and will just have to deal with the inconsistency of the former and the inexperience of the latter. Of course, Smith was promising in the games he did play last year – this could be a great chance for a step forward for him.

But the Giants don’t have Ellison waiting in reserve to fill in for either player if they can’t perform to standard or if injury strikes once again for Engram – and that might have a bigger impact than Ellison’s numbers would suggest.

New York Giants have a young tight end climbing the ranks

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

When the New York Giants shut Evan Engram down for the remainder of the 2019 campaign after he succumbed to a foot sprain, they resorted to young Kaden Smith, who was previously drafted in the 6th round by the San Francisco 49ers and was then waived and claimed by the Giants.

Smith emerged as a talented tight end for the Giants who could potentially represent the future. While he struggled in run-blocking and pass protection at times, he was a serviceable pass-catcher for rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones.

Smith finished with 268 yards over 31 catches, amassing a 73.8% completion rate, far surpassing Engram’s high of 70.3% in 2018.

How did injuries affect the New York Giants’ offense in 2019?

After Engram and Rhett Ellison picked up injuries, the Giants were limited from using 12-personnel grouping, resorting to 11-personnel on 70% of plays, according to Sharp Football Stats. This hurt the productivity of the unit as a whole and caused them to run more predictable schemes.

The Giants don’t seem to be in the best shape at the tight end position, considering Engram is still in a walking boot three months after having surgery. While “Easy E” is a swiss army knife for Big Blue and represents the modern-day tight end with his speed and elusiveness, his inability to remain healthy has severely hurt his efficiency.

Having missed nearly an entire season’s worth of games over the past two years, GM Dave Gettleman has a decision to make. Does he retain Engram and keep him for the fourth year of his contract, attempt to trade him in free agency or at the trade deadline next season, or pick up his fifth-year option and continue forward with confidence?

I believe he should let the season play out for Engram, rejecting his fifth-year option and attempting to trade him to a contending team in need of a tight end. This would maximize his value and allow the Giants to gain from him, given they aren’t in a position to earn a playoff spot.

Overall, I’m confident that Smith can handle a full workload and be the Giants’ starting option for the foreseeable future.

New York Giants: Jason Witten In Play For Tight Ends Coach?

The New York Giants are continuing to fill out their coaching staff this week. The team’s new head coach has already hired his three main coordinators. New York is retaining Thomas McGaughey as special teams coordinator. Patrick Graham will be the team’s defensive coordinator in 2020 after holding that same position with the Miami Dolphins in 2019. However, the Giants’ most interesting hire came at offensive coordinator.

Jason Garrett, former Dallas Cowboys head coach, has agreed to join Joe Judge’s staff as the Giants’ offensive coordinator. Garrett was an offensive coordinator for the Cowboys before being promoted to head coach in 2011. The Cowboys had numerous top-ten offenses under Garrett as both head coach and coordinator.

Many have speculated that Garrett will be bringing some colleagues to New York with him. Bill Callahan is someone the Giants are considering for their vacant offensive line coach position. Now, a new and utterly unexpected name has entered the discussions. Chris Mortensen of ESPN has reported that Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is considering reuniting with Jason Garret in New York.

A Player Or A Coach?

Mortenson’s report includes the critical detail that Jason Witten “hasn’t ruled out” playing next year. It is possible that Witten’s reunion with Garret would be as a player. However, the Giants have a couple of tight ends on the roster that they are excited about.

Evan Engram and Kaden Smith have both shown flashes of great potential. Engram’s only knock is his injury problems, missing 5 games in 2018 and 8 games in 2019. But his explosive receiving ability is bound to keep him around.

Kaden Smith was an unknown name heading into 2019 but quietly made his presence known by season’s end. Smith started in 6 games for the Giants and caught 31 passes for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. Smith is also a great run-blocker, though, he does not possess Engram’s athletic prowess.

With two talented tight ends already on the roster, it is hard to see where Jason Witten could fit into the equation as a player. However, a coaching role might make much sense for the veteran tight end.

Mike McCarthy, the Dallas Cowboys’ newly hired head coach, had “no on-field coaching spot” on his staff for Jason Witten (Mortenson). This report indicates that Witten was initially looking for a coaching job, but is open to playing if he cannot find one. Witten’s familiarity with Garrett and the Giants’ talented but young tight ends group could make Jason Witten a good fit as New York’s tight ends coach.

Jason Witten is a 37-year-old tight end that has already retired once. He came out of retirement for one last go with the Cowboys this past season, but the team seems ready to move on. Witten’s time in the broadcast booth was not much of a smashing success either. Maybe coaching is the best possible option for the future Hall of Fame candidate.

New York Giants: Does emergence of Kaden Smith make Evan Engram expendable?

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

New York Giants‘ head coach Joe Judge made it known that he’s looking for versatile athletes who are ready to punch the opposing team in the face for 60 minutes. If that has any indication of the style of player Judge wants to feature in 2020, tight end Evan Engram won’t be on the roster moving forward.

Engram, who has missed nearly an entire season worth of games over the past two years, is more of a receiving tight end than a hard-nosed blocker, versed in opening up the run game. That reality proposes a choice for Judge and GM Dave Gettleman — do they trade Engram for draft capital or retain him and utilize him in his frequent pass-catcher role?

The New York Giants need players that stay on the field:

Judge is undoubtedly a fan of availability is the best ability ideology, and Engram’s lack of availability on the field makes him expendable, in my opinion. The emergence of Kaden Smith last season gives Judge a solid tight end who can block and catch passes.

Smith logged 268 yards receiving and three scores, two of which came in the Giants’ victory over the Washington Redskins and week 16. He hauled in the game-winning score in overtime. As a rookie, his development was extensive, and he showed he could be a vital contributor moving forward.

This increases the probability of Engram being traded, and if the Giants can get a third-round value for his services, they shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger. The idea of moving Engram to WR has been floated via social media, and it’s not a bad idea to consider that move, however, with the plentiful talent at the WR position in the 2020 NFL Draft, trading Engram and grabbing one of those options in return makes sense.

There will be movement by the Giants this offseason, but it should start with adding draft capital after losing two picks in the Leonard Williams trade.

Big news could await the New York Giants on Tuesday

New York Giants, Pat Shurmur

As New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was walking out of the locker room following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in week 17, he quickly barked to patient reporters, “We’ll talk Tuesday.”

Gettleman seems confident that he will remain with the organization beyond what was a tumultuous 2019 season, but head coach Pat Shurmur couldn’t say the same during his press conference. He mentioned that “it’s only going to get better,” and that he wasn’t given the most talented roster to play with this season, but nothing in regards to his future with the Giants.

Tuesday will likely spell the end of at least one coach, and Shurmur is undoubtedly on the hot-seat, especially with Ron Rivera being available as his replacement. Gettleman is close with Rivera, who spend multiple years with him in Carolina, putting together a playoff-caliber team.

Theoretically, the Gettlman/Rivera tandem makes the most sense for owner John Mara. However, for everybody else, it seems like another go around the circle of failure. Being trounced by the Eagles in what was likely Eli Manning’s final game in blue was a disgrace, and co-owner Steve Tisch’s “tear it down” attitude might finally come to fruition, but the “let the Mara’s figure it out” mentality will surely reignite once again.

Is Dave Gettleman’s job safe with the New York Giants?

Gettleman has done plenty wrong to justify his firing, starting with his attempt at piecing together the offensive line. Left tackle Nate Solder has been a huge miss, and he will count $19.5 million in cap next season. On the flip side, Gettleman did draft Daniel Jones who seems to have the tools to become the next franchise quarterback for Big Blue. He also hit on multiple late-round picks, UDFAs (Ryan Connelly, Darius Slayton, Kaden Smith, Nick Gates, etc.), some of which have a limited sample size.

I would say Gettleman is about 50/50 on his hits and misses, maybe a bit more on the negative side, but he’s a voice Mara is intimidated by and won’t be keen to fire in the coming days. That’s the issue with hiring Gettleman in the first place. He’s close with the Mara’s. One day, John will learn not to mix friends with business.

New York Giants: Three Players To Watch In The Season Finale

New York Giants, Leonard Williams

This Sunday’s matchup will be the New York Giants’ final game of the 2019 NFL season. The 4-11 Giants will see their season come to a close this week against the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles, who are fighting for a playoff spot.

The Giants are not fighting for much, but a few players are fighting for future roster spots. It is important to keep an eye on a few individual performances with the future in mind. With that being said, here are three players to watch in Week 17:

Leonard Williams

General Manager Dave Gettleman made the controversial decision this season to trade for former-Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Williams was acquired in exchange for the Giants’ 2020 3rd-round pick and the conditional pick in 2021.

Since joining the New York Giants, Leonard Williams has played good football. He has been a productive pass-rusher, generating 16 pressures, 10 quarterback knockdowns, and 6 hurries, despite not getting credit for a single sack. Leonard has also done his part against the run with 21 combined tackles. However, Big Cat is set to be a free agent this offseason and has not yet been involved in extensions talks with the Giants.

Leonard Williams will need to impress in Week 17 to earn a long-term contract with the New York Giants. He has played well since joining Big Blue, but it might be hard to justify paying an interior defensive lineman a lucrative contract. A breakout performance could earn Leonard Williams and extension with the Giants.

Nick Gates

The New York Giants have dealt with injuries and subpar performances along the offensive line throughout the season. In the season’s final game, the Giants will be without their starting right tackle, Mike Remmers. This will thrust undrafted rookie Nick Gates back into the starting lineup.

Nick Gates has started in 2 games this season. He has exceeded all expectations in those 2 games as a starter. Gates has earned a Pro Football Focus grade of 76.9 this season and has allowed only 1 sack in his 215 snaps. He is naturally an offensive guard but has played a fair share of offensive tackle this season, filling in for Mike Remmers against the New York Jets.

The Giants’ offensive line is bound to change this offseason. But Nick Gates has shown flashes of great potential. Another strong performance in Week 17 could earn Nick Gates a chance at a starting role in 2020.

Kaden Smith

Like Nick Gates, Kaden Smith is another undrafted rookie filling in as a starter in Week 17. Kaden Smith has been starting at tight end for the last 5 weeks. The rookie out of Stanford has been impressive during this stretch of games.

Kaden Smith is coming off of a spectacular Week 16 that saw him catch the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. Kaden caught 6 of his 8 targets for 35 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with multiple critical blocks in the running game. Smith’s run-blocking ability is what separates him from the rest of the tight ends on the Giants’ roster.

With Evan Engram’s future clouded with uncertainty, another impressive outing by Kaden Smith could secure him a roster spot in 2020 (if that hasn’t already been achieved), and could even give him some consideration as the starter next season, too.

Is Kaden Smith The New York Giants’ True Tight End Of The Future?

New York Giants, Kaden Smith

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.

The New York Giants have to make a big decision on Evan Engram’s future

New York Giants, Evan Engram

When Evan Engram first succumbed to a mid-foot sprain several weeks ago, the estimated timeline for return was 2-4 weeks. However, the New York Giants placed him on injured reserve on Tuesday, ending his season prematurely and continuing a string of injury-riddled campaigns.

Going into his fourth year with Big Blue, Engram is looking to leave a significant mark on the third year of a Dave Gettleman rebuild, but it might be his last with the Giants. The team has from Dec. 30-May 5 to pick up the 5th year on his rookie contract. Still, after consistent injuries, the likelihood that he remains a Giant for longer than one more season is coming to an interesting conclusion.

“I wouldn’t rest for the rest of my career if I wasn’t able to be a part of something special here,” Engram told The Post. “We’ve had a lot of adversity, a lot of tough ones the last three years. I don’t imagine myself anywhere else, but you never know. I know better days are coming for myself and for this place.”

Engram is set to miss seven games this season after missing five in 2018, totaling 13. That’s nearly an entire year’s worth of games, which is troublesome for a team that’s in dire need of consistent players. Rookie TE Kaden Smith has stepped in valiantly in his absence, logging 135 yards and one score over five games.

Smith has supplemented the loss of Engram in a mediocre way, but with more game-experience and targets, he should continue to develop into a reliable tight end.

Could the New York Giants move ahead with Kaden Smith?

If the rookie shows more growth and can be a viable option to replace Engram down the road, the Giants may move on from the former first-round pick after 2020. Realistically, the price-tag he will be asking won’t be worth the investment considering his inability to stay healthy in inconsistencies while active. The 2019 season will be his worst to date, earning only 467 yards and three scores over eight games. Factor in his inability to block, and he’s mostly a wide receiver.