The tight end position has been become increasingly important to the New York Giants offense.
They have a slew of weapons at their disposal in their receiving corps. The Offensive Rookie of the Year coming out of the backfield doesn’t hurt either. However, the Giants need to have tight ends that will be productive…and stay healthy.
The Giants’ signature offense before 2018 was 11-personnel (one running back, one tight end). Last season, they ran 11-personnel on 38 percent of their plays. Head coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Mike Shula are moving the offense to 12-personnel (one running back, two tight ends). The Giants ran 12-personnel on 35 percent of their offensive plays last season.
The Giants’ offense was successful on 46 percent of the plays in which they ran 12-personnel. On the contrary, they were successful on just 39 percent of their plays in which they used 11-personnel.
Evan Engram is at the top of the depth chart. He has the skills to potentially become the first tight end to lead the team in receptions since Jeremy Shockey in 2004 (61 receptions for 666 yards and six touchdowns). In 2018, Engram had 45 receptions for 577 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games.
Engram seemed to save his best for when Odell Beckham Jr. was out of the lineup. He amassed 71 catches for 886 yards and six touchdowns in the 16 games Beckham missed over the past two seasons. Health is a concern as he missed one game in 2017 and five games last season due to injury. In spite of that, only four tight ends in the last 10 seasons recorded more receiving yards in their first two seasons than Engram’s 1,299 (George Kittle-1,892, Rob Gronkowski-1,873, Jimmy Graham—1,666, Aaron Hernandez-1,473).
Rhett Ellison was brought in primarily to be a blocking tight end. He found himself with an increasing role as a receiver when Engram was hurt or playing badly. Last season, he had his best season in the NFL as a receiver with career highs in receptions (25) and receiving yards (272) to go along with a touchdown. Ellison’s primary function will still be as a blocking tight end but will catch the ball when his number is called.
The Giants’ No. 1 and No. 2 spots at tight end are all but assured. They passed on passed on selecting a tight end from one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory. Instead, the Giants are taking a look at C.J. Conrad, Garrett Dickerson, Scott Simonson.
Conrad is an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky. He was diagnosed with a heart condition that ended his time at the NFL Combine early. A second opinion cleared him to return to the field but the damage was already done. The supposed heart trouble as well as four college surgeries dropped him off many draft boards. Conrad is a duel threat at tight end: he blocks well and, while no one would ever mistake him for Tony Gonzalez or Shannon Sharpe, he is decent enough pass catcher. He has the best shot at making the 53-man roster.
Dickerson hails from Englewood, N.J., a little less than eight miles away from East Rutherford. He spent 2018 bouncing between the Giants practice squad and the 53-man roster. He faces an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster this year as the Giants are very high on Conrad. Dickerson appeared in four games in 2018 but played just 16 snaps (14 on offense, two on special teams) and didn’t have a reception in any of those games. Dickerson will likely wind up on the practice squad but injuries could bring him to the active roster.
Simonson, unlike Dickerson, played in all 16 regular season games in ’18. He was targeted only 14 times but had nine receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown. Simonson is primarily a blocking tight end but he could face difficulty making the roster. He is in the best position to challenge Conrad but it is a long shot. In order for that to happen, Conrad would have to get injured or his blocking skills take a nose dive. If the Giants elect to carry four tight ends, as they have in recent years, the journeyman Simonson has a better chance of making the 53-man roster.
The tight end position will be of the utmost importance to the Giants now that Beckham is not there to draw double and triple coverage. No one expects the tight ends to carry the team. They were targeted in just 20 percent of the offensive snaps in 2018. However, the tight ends accounted for almost 21 percent of the Giants’ completions and nearly 21 percent of the team’s touchdowns. The Giants have an advantage with a reloaded receiving corps and No. 26. A tight end group that contributes in receptions and scores (especially Engram) will just be icing on the cake.