Jaguars TE Evan Engram wants to become a deep threat

Jaguars tight end Evan Engram scored four touchdowns in 2023. David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After tight end Evan Engram tallied career highs in catches and yards in his first season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he topped that by setting the single-season franchise record with 114 catches in 2023.

And now, he has bigger plans for 2024.

Engram plans to become a bigger downfield threat than ever before. That would include more big plays and touchdowns, joining players such as Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Sam LaPorta as tight ends that can devastate a defense.

"My role was underneath being the security blanket for Trevor [Lawrence] underneath and getting the ball in my hands fast, [yards after the catch], getting up field and moving the chains," Engram said. "I've done that really well and I think the next level for me is to improve that intermediate, deep range...

"Making more explosive plays, downfield, more touchdowns, being a bigger red zone target. Those are my goals. I think that can take it to a whole other level."

Engram has been a volume player with the Jaguars, with his 241 targets and 187 catches over two seasons the most of any player on the roster -- and among the most of any tight end in the NFL. Engram's 187 catches over that span are second among tight ends only to Kelce's 203.

Engram was the most-targeted tight end last season, and only David Njoku (599) had more yards after the catch than his 516. However, Engram's 8.4 yards per reception ranked 26th among tight ends, well behind Kittle's leading 15.7. And Engram's four touchdowns tied for 12th among tight ends. Clearly, there is room for improvement.

Offensive coordinator Press Taylor said the team would like to get Engram more involved in the downfield passing game, but that his quick and underneath routes -- in addition to being one of Trevor Lawrence's most trusted targets -- are an important part of the offense. The additions of free agent receiver Gabe Davis and first-round receiver Brian Thomas Jr. will give the Jaguars a more vertical element on the outside that will stretch the field, and allow Engram and receiver Christian Kirk to exploit matchups with safeties and linebackers.

"Evan is such a dynamic ball carrier that a lot of it is to get him the ball as quick as we can, running away from people, but I think an element that he's always had is getting down the field," Taylor said. "Sometimes it's trying to find what the matchup is.

"When we have a couple schemes where he gets on the second level quickly, he does a pretty good job in that stuff, so that's something we're just continuing to try to evolve. But getting him the football quickly, things happen quickly and happen pretty well for him."

Coach Doug Pederson added that it's up to him and Taylor to create the opportunities and call plays that get Engram open downfield more.

"He's definitely capable of [making plays down the field]. He's shown that," Pederson said. "We, as a staff, have got to put him in positions to do that. For a guy like Evan, I think that with his skillset, that would only help us with his ability to get down the field, with his speed, strong to the catch point, all that stuff.

"Again, I put it more on us as playcallers and decision-makers to make sure that we are putting him in that position."

Engram was in that position more during his five seasons with the New York Giants, who drafted him 23rd overall in 2017. He averaged more than 10 yards per catch in each of his first four seasons, including a career-high 12.8 YPC in 2018 in Eli Manning's final season as a full-time starting quarterback.

Engram averaged 11.5 yards per catch in 27 games with Manning but that number dropped to 9.6 yard per catch in the 62 games with young quarterbacks Daniel Jones and Lawrence. Going on his third season in Pederson's offense, Engram believes he can reach his goal in 2024.

"I want to keep going, I want even more," he said. "It's definitely really cool to put two great seasons together back-to-back. And when you look at the greats that have been through this game that are in the game now, they do that year after year and I definitely feel I'm in the place to be able to do that, in the system to do that, the coaches, the quarterback, the team to continue to do that.

"So for me, definitely proud of what I put together, but there's a lot more work to do and a lot more for me to go get."