This season hasn't yielded the level of production from Evan Engram that many Ole Miss fans expected. Engram has 22 catches for just 232 yards and one touchdown. He has dropped too many passes this season, with his most recent generating an interception in the red zone and allowing Auburn to keep the game tight on Saturday. People have been asking what's going on. This isn't an article where I say that's stupid and make up some reason that he's not statistically productive. Maybe it's that Kelly just really likes the long ball to outside receivers. Maybe it's the number of balls that have been batted down when trying to throw across the middle. There are a lot of potential reasons for this lack of statistical production which we won't get into now. However, Engram (and the tight end generally) is making a difference for this team.
Whether it's in the running game or the passing offense, some of the success over the past few weeks is a result of having versatility at the tight end position.
Against Texas A&M and Auburn, the running game has looked much better. The presence of Laremy Tunsil is obviously a major contributing factor to that, but some big runs have been sprung by tight end blocks. Take, for instance, this first down run against Auburn.
As you can see, Jeremy Liggins starts the play as an H-back lined up on the right side of the line. When the ball is snapped, he pulls and becomes a lead blocker for Jaylen Walton. Liggins blocks two Auburn defenders at the same time, allowing Walton to pick up a big chunk of yards after what would have otherwise been his first point of contact. Running off tackle to the left (where Tunsil is) with tight end help has been a good bet for yardage over these past two weeks.
On Akeem Judd's touchdown run, Judd initially started running right, but Evan Engram's block to the left side of the line gave Judd a clear cutback. Because Engram cleared the way, and because Judd juked two defenders, it was a touchdown. While Judd's moves in the open field here made this a touchdown, it was going to be a significant run either way because of Engram.
On this play, Engram's mere presence opens things up for Treadwell. As Engram moves into the flat, Kelly looks his way, drawing the defenders around him. After the defensive players have bitten on the fake, Treadwell is open at the next level, and it's an easy big gain. The coaches have been using this play several times a game over the last few weeks, and it has worked nearly every time. I'm not sure why these defenders are consistently leaving their deeper zones to come up and take the shallow pass away, but it's working.
I hope this article has made it a little bit clearer that Evan Engram is still making a difference for the team even if it's not quite as easy to see that. Our fans have learned to get over the lack of statistics from Robert Nkemdiche, realizing that he affects the play in other ways. Evan Engram is similar (though his impact is obviously not as big). Like you all, though, I'd like to see him start catching a bunch of footballs. He's dangerous with the ball in his hands in the seams.