EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants' offense can use any help it can get these days. This week that should include the return of tight end Evan Engram from a sprained MCL in his right knee.
Engram is on pace to play Monday night in Atlanta, barring a setback. He appeared spry and fast as a full participant at practice this week.
“I’m looking to come back,” Engram said. “I’m looking to play this week.”
Engram was injured early in a Week 3 win over the Houston Texans. He may have been able to return last week had the Giants not had their game on Thursday night. So with the extra 11 days to prepare for the Falcons, he’s expecting to be back at full speed and handling a full complement of snaps. He was on the field for 90 percent of the Giants' offensive plays in Week 1, 88 percent of the plays in Week 2.
There will be an opportunity for Engram to do damage against the Falcons. The decimated Atlanta defense without speedy linebacker Deion Jones (out for the season with a foot injury) has allowed 29 catches for 311 yards with three touchdowns against opposing tight ends this year.
“I feel good. I feel really good. There are no limitations,” Engram said. “They are letting me loose at practice. I’m pushing through and I’m getting my confidence back. Everything is good right now.”
Engram had 10 catches on 13 targets for 104 yards and a touchdown prior to the injury. He also had a long catch erased by a penalty and was interfered with on another pass deep down the field.
The second-year tight end adds an element to the Giants' offense, which has struggled badly this season, that has been missed. The Giants are averaging just over 18 points per game, and haven’t received much from their tight ends in the passing game with Engram sidelined.
Rhett Ellison and Scott Simonson managed nine catches for 106 yards and no touchdowns in the three full games Engram missed. Engram brings a different element and skill set.
“I think with Evan, just that guy who can get open versus man [coverage],” quarterback Eli Manning said. “Another option if teams want to play a little two-high [coverage], and play two-man [coverage]. A guy who can get open versus linebackers and create some mismatches and move him around. I think it’ll be good to get Evan back.”
Engram had 64 catches for 722 yards with six touchdowns as a rookie. He was supposed to be part of an explosive group of playmakers for the Giants this season.
It hasn’t worked out that way for much of the first six weeks. The Giants have just 18 passes of 20-plus yards. Fifteen teams have more.
“[Engram] being out the first few weeks can affect you. He’s got very good speed, he has some traits that a wideout might have, so that’s another guy to throw the ball to,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “Again, it kind of plays into if you’re going to stop one guy, the other guy has got to make plays. That’s not to say that the guys that filled in for Evan didn’t make plays, it’s just good when he’s out there.”
The Giants should have the benefit of that on Monday night.