EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Evan Engram understands that he has all the tools to be a top tight end in the NFL.
The New York Giants' second-year player, the team's first-round selection in 2017, has the size, speed and the drive to be a star.
There's only one problem. Engram has a propensity of dropping passes, especially in clutch situations.
Engram caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns last season. Engram also dropped 11 passes and vowed in the offseason to work on rectifying that problem.
Now, in his second season, Engram has caught 17 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, but he has also dropped three passes.
"It's pretty tough," Engram said Thursday before the team practiced in preparation for facing the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
"It's not where I want to be. I have to put some of these plays behind me and keep working on getting better and staying positive."
Engram's problems are also magnified because the Giants have a 1-7 record for the second straight season.
"We just have to go out and get a win," Engram said. "We have to get some of the bad tastes out of our mouths. It's going to feel good to get out there on the big stage Monday night."
The Giants are coming off their bye week, which should make the beleaguered team feel a little better.
"I think it's important to put the bad things behind me," Engram said. "A couple of those drops are catches that I can make in my sleep. I just want to go out there and give us enough an opportunity to win the game Monday night."
Engram was the first rookie tight end to lead the Giants in receptions. His six touchdown catches were a franchise record for a rookie tight end in 2017.
So the potential is there. He just has to make sure to hold on to the ball, something that coach Pat Shurmur also realizes.
"Evan is a pass-catching tight end," Shurmur said. "I think we all realize that. But it's important that he catches the ball. He's had a couple of drops. But he works at it. He has worked all along at catching the ball. He does a lot of drills, a lot of extra work. He works hard at catching the ball. He always puts the drop behind him and continues to work hard at trying to catch the ball."
Quarterback Eli Manning recognizes Engram's passion for improving.
"Evan works hard and wants to do everything right," said Manning, who will remain the team's starter for the time being. "He puts in a lot of work. He's too good of a player and an athlete to let the little things bother him."
Manning knows that the Giants have had their difficulties scoring touchdowns this season.
"I feel like we're moving the ball well," Manning said. "We're getting yards and moving the ball down the field. We just need that to translate into scoring touchdowns. It always comes down to execution. We have to avoid the negative plays. We just have to execute better in the red zone."
Manning did not want to talk about whether Monday night's game against the Niners might be his last as a starter this season.
"I'm worried about this week," he said. "I have a job to do right now. We're just going to try to go out there and get the win this time. Sure, there's a sense of urgency. We all need to get going. We need to improve. We need to score some points. I feel like we're close. We just have to get back on track, keep improving and play some football."
The improvement might have to begin with the second-year tight end.
"I watch film of other tight ends," Engram said. "There are a lot of athletic tight ends in the league, so I try to pick up plays that can make me more effective. I love watching (Kansas City TE) Travis Kelce. He's so polished and smooth as a tight end. It's fun watching him. I always try to steal things from him."
So Engram took the practice field Thursday with the idea that the dropped passes, 14 over his first 1½ seasons, are a thing of the past.
"I think we all strive for perfection," Engram said. "I just have to put it (the dropped passes) behind me. I understand that it's part of the game and it's something that makes you work harder."