Evan Engram’s Giants career could end any day now.
Here’s how it began: After some debate in the war room during the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, general manager Jerry Reese listened to the coaching staff and selected Engram over defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (who became the Giants’ second-round pick, anyway).
“You are going to coach him up, right?” Reese said, two people in the room recently told The Post. “If he’s a playmaker, he better show me.”
Reese, before he was fired late in the season, saw Engram’s best as a rookie. Those offensive coaches who went to bat for Engram all are long gone from the building, as the Giants are on their third head coach and fourth tight ends coach since he was drafted.
But Engram remains a staff favorite, and head coach Joe Judge’s fondness for Engram’s work ethic and unselfishness might be the main thing stopping a trade before Tuesday’s deadline. Multiple teams have expressed interest in the soon-to-be free agent, according to an ESPN report.
“I would take Engram on my team in a heartbeat,” one former general manager said. “He should be a better player, no doubt.”
The feeling around the NFL seems to be that Engram is a classic case of a player in need of a change of scenery. Free from both the expectations placed on all first-round picks and a fan base that has turned him into the poster boy for five years of Giants underachievement, and instead inserted into a scheme where he would play more in the slot and run deeper routes, Engram could tap into his potential.
This is the third time in as many years that Engram’s name has been popular at the trade deadline. Translation: He is a desirable player at the right price.
“I can’t even think about it that way,” Engram told The Post. “It’s something out of my control that I can’t afford to put any energy towards. As long as I’m here, I’m a Giant. I got drafted here, I have family here and I love this team. They treat us really well here.”
Engram has channeled his energy into fixing holes in his game, and he could showcase his skills to a league-wide audience Monday against the Chiefs, the seventh-worst passing defense.
“Probably a lot more urgent to improve this year,” Engram said. “The biggest thing is finding ways to make it more uncomfortable, to practice hard catches.”
Engram just watched teammate Jabrill Peppers — also playing on a contract year — suffer a season-ending torn ACL, ending trade speculation about his future.
“It’s some adversity for Pep,” Engram said, “but I wouldn’t count him out or doubt him one bit. I’ve talked to him and we know we’re in the same boat with our [contract] situations.”
It has gone mostly unnoticed, compared to the boos that faced Engram in Week 3, but he has just one drop this season after leading all tight ends with eight last season. As was on display last week against the Panthers, he is catching the ball with his hands better than when he was letting it get too close to his body.
“We said when we drafted him, his hands are not making the diamond when he is catching,” one former Giants talent evaluator said. “Sometimes the ball doesn’t come in clean. He’ll make these crazy catches, but then he’ll drop some because his hands are not naturally in sync.”
After missing the first two games with a calf injury to increase his four-year total of games not played to 15, Engram has 20 catches for 171 yards. It’s the first time his yards-per-reception (8.6) has been under 10.4, though that is mostly a product of running curls and digs because the Giants are without so many injured field-stretching weapons and covering for a shaky offensive line by getting the ball out of quarterback Daniel Jones’ hands faster.
“Evan has just responded well to anything we’ve ever given him,” offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said. “[Last] game … we moved the pocket a lot. He was a guy who was going to get the ball on a lot of those plays. He caught them. He went north and south and made a lot of good plays. We love having him on our team.”
Will he still be on the team Tuesday?