One of the differences between New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and ex-coach Tom Coughlin seems to be the former’s trust in rookies. Many fans criticized Coughlin for often playing veterans over young players, but McAdoo didn’t do that. In 2016, rookies like Paul Perkins and Andrew Adams played key roles for McAdoo. Assuming his trust in rookies continues, Giants fans should expect to see a lot of Evan Engram and Dalvin Tomlinson this year.
Engram’s role in the offense is still a curious one. It remains to be seen whether he will be used more as a tight end or as a receiver. Engram has fantastic athletic ability, but he needs to improve his blocking. He will be entering a packed receiving core, but if the coaching staff can figure out how to use him, he can be dangerous.
The addition of Engram also gives the Giants a lot more variety in their formations. The New York offense struggled with predictability last year, as the majority of its plays were run out the same personnel grouping. McAdoo constantly stuck with three receivers, one tight end, and one back, which made it easier for opposing defenses. Due to Engram’s athleticism, the Giants can use him in many different ways. He can serve an Aaron Hernandez-type role for Big Blue, which would cause coverage nightmares when lined up opposite Odell Beckham Jr.
With the addition of free agent tight end Rhett Ellison, the position might not be a liability anymore. The Giants could start relying on two tight end formations. A power set like that means better blocking, which could mean an improved running game. The play-action hasn’t been a threat for New York lately because its running game is so weak; with a stronger running game, Eli Manning can use play-action to find Engram or Beckham deep. The rookie could change the look of the entire offense.
On defense, second round pick Dalvin Tomlinson will be playing a different role. Tomlinson won’t change the look of the defense, but he should make sure it doesn’t regress without Johnathan Hankins. Hankins was a powerful run blocker and an average pass rusher, and that skill set was a bit redundant next to Damon Harrison. The Giants will be counting on Tomlinson to generate some interior pressure.
Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul both ranked highly in quarterback pressures last year, but not in sacks. The reason their pressures didn’t translate into more sacks is because quarterbacks were able to step up and away from them without a fear of interior pressure. If Tomlinson can get a solid rush up the middle, it will allow Vernon and Pierre-Paul to feast.
Tomlinson will also be playing a big role because the Giants lack defensive tackle depth. Behind the two starters, the only notable defensive tackles the Giants have are Jay Bromley and Robert Thomas. They can’t rely on their backups, so Tomlinson must deliver. Many of the Giants starters on the defensive line played significant snaps last year; it showed how much they didn’t trust their substitutes. They will need the rookie to stay healthy and be productive while taking the majority of snaps next to Harrison.
It is always a risk relying on rookies to play big roles, but the Giants must take that risk. Engram and Tomlinson have great potential. If they can play the way the team expects them to play, the Giants should find themselves in the postseason once again.