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Rhett Ellison replacing injured Engram as Giants’ tight end

September 27, 2018

FILE - In this Sept. 23, 2018, file photo, New York Giants tight end Rhett Ellison (85) dives for a touchdown after catching a pass as Houston Texans linebacker Zach Cunningham (41) defends during the first half of an NFL football game in Houston. Ellison is an old-time tight end. He’s tough. He’s physical. He catches the ball, runs hard and blocks as well. Engram is the more modern version of a tight end. The 23-year old can run like a receiver, break a game open with a catch and help out a little with his blocking, which is not his strongest suit. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith, File)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Rhett Ellison is never going to step into the New York Giants’ lineup at tight end and make people forget Evan Engram.

The 29-year-old Ellison is an old-time tight end. He’s tough. He’s physical. He catches the ball, runs hard and blocks as well.

Engram is the more modern version of a tight end. The 23-year old can run like a receiver, break a game open with a catch and help out a little with his blocking, which is not his strongest suit.

When the Giants (1-2) face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, Ellison is going to step in for Engram, who sprained his knee last weekend against Houston and is going to be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

“There’s stuff that I can’t do that Evan does,” Ellison said Thursday before the Giants practiced. “For me, it’s just trying to execute the plays and find my role in the play that’s called, and try to make a play.”

Ellison had his best game of the season this past weekend, catching three passes for 39 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown, in a 27-22 win over the Texans.

Odell Beckham Jr., who leads the Giants with 24 catches for 271 yards, said all the receivers are going to have to step up to replace Engram, who led the Giants in receiving last season.

“Rhett, we call him Mr. Consistent. I do, at least,” Beckham said. “He always seems like he’s in the right place at the right time, always making the plays, so everybody’s got to step up.”

Ellison has spent a lot of time this week talking with Engram, who had 10 catches for 104 yards and a TD this season.

“A lot of people sleep on Rhett,” Engram said. “He’s definitely a teach-tape in the blocking game. The dude is a really good athlete and makes plays in the pass game too. So, no need to give him any speed. He was moving on some plays on Sunday, and I expect him to have a big game this weekend, and through the pass game. I know he’s going to take care of his blocks in the run game.”

Giants coach Pat Shurmur worked with Ellison when both were with the Vikings.

“I’m fond of Rhett who he is as a player and as a person,” Shurmur said. “He epitomizes a player that you want on your team. He’s very good at what he does, he can line up anywhere, he finds a way to make plays. Some guys just have a knack for that. He finds a way to make plays. Very trustworthy and very tough, and he’s wired like a football player, and that is what you’re looking for.”

Shurmur even equated Ellison’s toughness with that of Mark Bavaro, the outstanding tight end who was a member of the Giants’ Super Bowl-winning teams after the 1986 and ’90 seasons.

The comparison was somewhat funny because Bavaro made a name for himself early in his career carrying a half-dozen San Francisco defenders on a 31-yard pass play in the ’86 season.

“One of which was my dad,” Ellison said, whose father Riki was a linebacker who played a decade in the NFL. “So, I’m sure my dad is not happy about this comparison.”

Ellison said he isn’t approaching this game any differently than others in his seven-year career. He is spending time with backup tight ends Scott Simonson and rookie Garrett Dickerson to make sure they are up to speed. Engram is working with them, too.

“He definitely has been picking my brain a lot this year,” Engram said of Ellison. “So have I with him in blocking and stuff. I have all the confidence in him. Like I said, I feel like I’m a vet sometimes when that happens. He’s like the young kid asking me for help and stuff.”

NOTES: CB Eli Apple (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis. LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) was also limited. DT Damon Harrison (knee), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee) and WR Cody Latimer (knee) missed practice for the second straight day.

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