Giants’ Devontae Booker says he’s’ absolutely ‘in a groove – and needs more touches to stay there, at the expense of Saquon Barkley

the giants really wanted to sign Devontae Booker as a free agent. That was clear when he became their first addition after a busy offseason, signed to a two-year, $ 5.5 million contract on the very first day of free agency.

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Booker didn’t even get a chance to see if other teams were interested. In 2020, they weren’t – Booker spent two months in free agency before the Raiders finally signed him on a minimum contract. And it’s not like he’s gone and had a Pro Bowl-caliber season – backing Josh Jacobs, Booker rushed for 423 yards.

But there the Giants were, on Day 1, refusing to hang up until he signed.

“They contacted my agent and it was like, ‘What can we do? We want it now, ”Booker told NJ Advance Media. “They didn’t allow any other team in. I didn’t even know too much about the team.”

Some have questioned the aggressiveness of a career running back signing, but general manager Dave Gettleman called him a “legitimate three-way fullback.” That signified the quality of the start, in a team with Saquon Barkley.

There are three games left in the season, and it could be argued that Booker should in fact be Barkley’s starting running back at this point. Simply put: Booker has been the most productive running back, which says more about Barkley’s injury-induced decline or Booker’s consistency.

Booker started the year slow, averaging three yards per carry in the first five games, and was healthy by week three. Once he started getting consistent runs, Booker found a rhythm. With Barkley out of Week 6-9, Booker was in for 15.5 carries per game and averaging four yards per carry. His litters have since dropped – 28 overall in five games – but his production has only gotten better. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry in this stretch and caught 12 of 13 passes.

Last week, Booker amassed 74 yards on eight carries against the Cowboys. Barkley is yet to rack up 70 yards in 10 games this season.

“I feel like it’s with any runner,” Booker said. “As long as they have a groove or when they have touches, the more I touch, the more I will continue to excel. “

There’s just a Barkley-sized roadblock in its way. It’s easy to see why the Giants continue to play Barkley more than Booker. They invested the No.2 pick in him in 2018 and tried to build the offense around him. Injuries, both an ACL tear last year and a sprained ankle earlier, robbed him of some of his elusiveness and explosiveness. Barkley is more dynamic than ever and often finds himself stuck on the line of scrimmage or losing yards.

Barkley has 25 rushes that have totaled zero or negative yards this season, including 14 in the last four games. Booker only has four such rushes in this section.

In the first quarter against the Cowboys, Booker ran 28 yards and four yards on back-to-back carries, then checked for Barkley. In the third quarter, Booker ran for 31 yards, then Barkley stepped into the next play and was pissed off at the line of scrimmage.

Does Booker wish he could stay when he enters a groove?

“At one point, I would think of it that way,” Booker said, then paused. “But I’m just dealing with whatever is going on. When Saquon comes in, I root him, and vice versa.

Booker said he “absolutely” felt like he was in the right direction right now.

“Me personally, I played cool,” Booker said. “My ‘cool’ is good, I guess. But I don’t even think about it because it’s a team game and I tried to go out and help my team win. And for us not to win, it sucks. “

Booker pointed out that he played six seasons in the NFL – with the Broncos, Raiders and Giants – and has never had a winning season. The Giants are 4-10 heading into Sunday’s game against the Eagles.

“I’m a little used to this,” Booker said. “It’s not something you want to get used to, but the more it happens you know how to get through it and how to get through the situation, all the while getting ready, going out and playing like you have yet another game to go. player.”

The last time the Eagles and Giants teams played on November 28, Booker got just three runs. Barkley had 13 – and only gained 40 yards.

By most measurements, Booker has simply been better all season.

Booker and Barkley have almost the same number of carries (115 for Barkley, 113 for Booker) and Booker has more yards (506 to 429), better average yards per carry (4.5 to 3.7) and the same number of touchdowns on the ground (two). Barkley has five more catches, but just 11 more yards – and Focus on professional football Booker had he been ranked the best receiver, best runner and best running back this season.

Booker has 13 carries that gained over 10 yards. Barkley has eight. Booker also has two more first downs, and Football Outsiders ranked Booker 25th (out of 40) among running backs with at least 100 runs. Barkley is ranked 35th.

Maybe the Giants won’t completely bench Barkley – but Booker at least deserves more runs.

“I really have to keep going out there and working, working through practice and the playing time comes up, going out there and playing with all my heart,” Booker said. “It’s the only thing we can do. And I hope to get a victory.

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Zack Rosenblatt can be reached at [email protected].

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