The New York Giants officially lost last season’s leading rusher Wayne Gallman to the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday. As for starting running back Saquon Barkley, he is still rehabbing from a torn ACL that ended his 2020 campaign after just five quarters.
However, have no fear, as the team believes they have found themselves a “legitimate three-down running back” this offseason.
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Giants Speak Highly of Devontae Booker
The Giants surprised many this spring when they handed veteran running back Devontae Booker a two-year, $5.5 million deal — a sizeable pay bump from the approximate $1 million he made with the Raiders in 2020. That’s not to say he wasn’t deserving of a raise, as Booker widely exceeded expectations as Josh Jacobs’ backup in Las Vegas. It more has to do with the fact that many believe the Giants would have been better served using that money to retain in-home talent. While the specific numbers of Gallman’s contract with the Niners have yet to be released, it wouldn’t surprise to see them look eerily similar to Booker’s.
So why the trade-off in backs? Because while Gallman proved himself as a viable runner in his breakout campaign this past season, Booker is able to affect the game in an array of different facets.
“One of the reasons we prioritized Devontae is: You can never have too many good players, at any position. I don’t care what anybody says,” general manager Dave Gettleman told reporters on Tuesday. “One of the things that made Devontae so attractive was the fact that we felt he was a legitimate three-down running back. So it’s always a group decision here. Everything is in the best interest of the Giants. So we feel he can be a good part of our solution at running back.”
What Booker Brings to the Table
The Booker acquisition comes at a time where New York’s top-three backs for the majority of 2020 — Wayne Gallman, Alfred Morris and Dion Lewis — are all unlikely to return. Meaning the Utah product is expected to shoulder the majority of backup duties behind Barkley in 2021.
Speaking of Barkley, the hope in East Rutherford is that the former Pro Bowler can return to his rookie form when he led the NFL in scrimmage yards with 2,028. If that proves to be the case, few ball-handling opportunities will likely fall into the hands of Booker. For example, in Barkley’s 2018 season — the lone 16-game game campaign of his career — he touched the ball a whopping 352 times (261 rushing attempts and 91 receptions). Gallman was second amongst all Giants running backs in touches that season, receiving a measly 65 (51 rushes and 14 receptions).
Under those circumstances, Booker will be asked to man a plethora of supplementary roles, namely as a pass protector, outlet receiver (while spelling Barkley) and special teams contributor. The good news, he is well versed in all these facets.
Booker has hauled in 122 receptions over his five-year NFL career, including at least 30 receptions in three of those seasons. As for his special teams prowess, the 28-year-old has logged 533 special teams snaps since 2017, and also boasts serviceable abilities as a return man, averaging 20.9 yards on 30 career kick returns.
With that said, if Barkley’s 2021 fate falls in line similar to his more recent injury-riddled campaigns, Booker also has chops in the run-game to serve as a feasible primary ball carrier. After a slow start to his career in Denver, Booker has developed as an efficient runner. Since 2018, he’s carried the ball 129 times, averaging a combined 4.8 ypc In his lone season with the Raiders, Booker mustered up 423 yards (second-most in his career) on 93 carries, good enough for a 4.5 ypc average.
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