The New York Giants’ wide receiver problems this season have been well-documented. The team might already have the solution for next season and beyond in tight end Evan Engram.
At 2-12, there is no question that the Giants have many more issues than a lack of healthy receivers, with quarterback and linebacker being two positions of pressing concern entering this offseason. However, given how impressive the wide receiver corps looked prior to this season, the Giants have to question whether they are truly stable at any position.
Star wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall both suffered season-ending injuries during the same game, and second-year receiver Sterling Shepard has missed significant time with an ankle injury. Shepard has put up impressive numbers in the few games he has played, but the team has had to rely on receivers like Roger Lewis and Tavarres King to shoulder the load of the offense for most of the season, something neither player has shown the ability to do.
As such, rookie tight end Evan Engram has emerged as quarterback Eli Manning’s favorite target in what has been an otherwise lackluster passing attack. He has recorded 710 receiving yards, good for second among all rookie receivers and fifth among all tight ends, and his six receiving touchdowns are most among all rookies.
Despite playing as the team’s primary tight end, Engram has the most receptions and the most receiving yards of any Giants player this year. He might not even finish the year as the leader in either category with Shepard back on the field for the final two games, but his consistency at a time when few other players have been able to remain healthy has been one of the only bright spots for a dismal Giants team.
Looking ahead to next season and the future, the Giants have some major questions regarding the wide receiver position. Marshall only has one year left on his contract and at 33 years old his future in the NFL as a star player is far from guaranteed. Beckham is signed through the 2018 season but if he commands a massive contract, the Giants could very well choose to move on rather than invest a significant amount of cap space in one player.
With the Giants in prime position to find their quarterback of the future in the 2018 NFL Draft, the team should make every effort to surround their top pick with competent and capable wide receivers. The combination of Shepard and Engram provides the team with stability even if they lose both Beckham and Marshall after next season.
Unfortunately, in order for this move to work, the Giants need to address their lack of depth at the tight end position. Engram is a below-average blocker, and second-string tight end Rhett Ellison is a below-average receiver, so signing someone like Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham or Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert this offseason would provide the team with a dual-threat tight end and allow Engram to move to wide receiver.
The Giants have suffered immense losses this season, but if they hadn’t done so, it is unclear whether Evan Engram would have been given the opportunity to prove just how pivotal he is to the future of this organization. The Giants might be struggling this season, but moving forward, they have a lot to be optimistic about, and Engram has helped deliver that optimism much earlier than expected.
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