How Giants plan to use rookie TE Evan Engram vs. Cowboys and beyond

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Evan Engram is a tight end with wide receiver speed. There is hardly a player on the New York Giants better suited for 7-on-7 practices in shorts and shells (shoulder pads and helmets). That was obvious while watching him run and catch the football this spring and summer, contorting to make plays in the middle of the field and in the end zone.

Engram (6-foot-3, 236 pounds) has proven to be an impressive athlete with enviable body control and pass-catching ability. It's hardly a surprise. He was productive at Ole Miss and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds at the NFL combine, a blazing time for a tight end.

The Rebels didn't ask him to block much, which led to a belief that the Giants might use him strictly as sort of a slot or outside receiver. That doesn't appear to be the plan for Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys or further down the road.

"He's a tight end, so he has to block," coach Ben McAdoo said. "That's his No. 1 job."

Based on the preseason and training camp, the Giants won't be afraid to use Engram on running downs or in short-yardage situations, especially in two-tight end sets. He'll be working alongside Rhett Ellison, who was signed as a free agent this offseason and will play a substantial role in the offense.

Ellison will likely start and handle run downs. Engram will still play plenty, especially with the Giants as a pass-first team. A 60-40 play split still seems reasonable in Engram's favor, given his expected role in the offense. If there are 80 total tight end snaps available in a given contest, that would equate to 48 for Engram, 32 for Ellison.

Ample opportunity for both to contribute, and more than enough time for Engram to do some damage.

"Just another big playmaker," Engram said of his projected role. "We have a lot of them. There is the middle of the field that requires a guy to come in there and eat. I think that is where I can be really successful."

It might take time for him to get acclimated to the blocking and professional game, but as long as Engram is on the field, he'll make his fair share of plays. That's why he was a first-round pick.

Whether or not it comes in his NFL regular-season debut on Sunday night is a completely different story. Engram acknowledges the atmosphere will be "crazy." He's never played in AT&T Stadium before, with the massive scoreboard and party-like atmosphere in front of nearly 100,000 people.

He's heard from teammates what to expect and envision.

"I keep hearing it's a great place to win a ball game," Engram said. "So I'm looking forward to going out there and win."

Engram's expecting the experience to be intense. So is his coach, who already addressed the matter with his young tight end earlier this week and offered tips.

McAdoo told Engram that he's probably going to need to do everything possible to keep his emotions in check.

"We talked about this breathing technique during OTAs and stuff. Kind of collecting yourself," Engram explained. "He said you're going to have to do that in the national anthem because every single emotion is going to be going crazy.

"I do [the breathing technique] all the time. Take deep breaths. Kind of settle in, relaxing and get going. I'm definitely probably going to be doing that a lot Sunday."

He's also going to be doing some blocking as an in-line tight end. The Giants are not shying away from that responsibility for the rookie.

So far, Engram says the feedback he's received on his blocking has been positive. This allows the Giants to be confident in using him in any situation, which should equate to the significant playing time.

"There has been good film and there has been corrected film. So they are pleased with my drive to get in there and block," Engram said. "They love how I'm not afraid to get in there and not going to shy away from it, but there has been some stuff that had to be corrected. That is inevitable.

"So I think they've been really pleased and excited [by] what I bring to the table with my vertical threat skills, I guess."

If he brings that to the real games, his role will only continue to grow.