New York made it a priority to sign a capable backup for their star running back Saquon Barkley, who missed the majority of 2020 and was dinged up through the 2019 season.
Dave Gettleman, Joe Judge, and company added Devontae Booker, formerly of the Las Vegas Raiders, to their roster.
Booker was signed to a two-year, $5.5 million deal; he finished the season with 106 snaps, 93 rushing attempts for 423 yards (4.5 yards per carry), and three rushing touchdowns, as well as 17 catches for 81 yards.
He has a career rushing average of 4.0 yards per carry and 2.6 yards after contact while having 235 of his career runs classified as zone and 128 as gap.
Jason Garrett instituted a much more gap dominant rushing scheme that featured a lot of counter trey, DUO blocking, G-Lead, and some zone type of runs.
Booker can execute these runs, even though he ran more zone in Las Vegas and the Denver Broncos. Let’s get into his film in this edition of the Good, the Great, and the Ugly.
The Good: Vision
Booker has an excellent feel for cutback lanes and when to use the jump-cut behind the line of scrimmage to put himself into a position to make over pursuing defenders pay.
We see all that on display here against the Browns; the linebackers and STAR position read their keys on this stretch zone run, and Booker senses the lateral flow.
Oliver Vernon (54) crashes down the line of scrimmage really hard, and Booker jukes outside Vernon to face up with a defensive back. Booker then shows the physicality by lowering his shoulder and picking up a few extra yards. A good combination of play strength and vision right here from Booker.
Here’s a touchdown run against the Broncos, his former team. The double team block and transition on the 2i-Technique put both defenders out of position, and Booker did a good job noticing how crowded the interior gaps were, so he naturally felt the cutback lane and took the run for six.
He shows a quality burst not to allow the defenders protecting the edge to restrict the gap and make a tackle. Two defenders are waiting there, and the gap narrows quickly, the blocker, combined with Booker’s speed, allows for the touchdown to happen.
This is the longest run of Booker’s career - a 43-yard scamper! He just follows his blocks, but I love how he hits the hole, stays low, and explodes into space.
Booker has the opportunity to possibly bounce this outside. Still, he allows the blocks to materialize, trusts his teammates, and then hits the second level while running away from the alley defender. Also, a great move to make that defender miss the block.
This Jets game wasn’t great for the Raiders rushing offense, nor was it for Booker, but this run above was solid. Booker had players in his face almost all game.
Here he shows very good reactionary quickness once Marcus Maye (20) shoots inside the C-Gap to almost force a tackle for loss. Booker reacts quickly and finds the cutback lane to pick up 14 yards.
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The Great: Physicality
Booker gets dragged down here, but he lays the lumber on the defender while showing good patience to let the combo pancake develop.
Then he has very good vision to explode into the right hole, where he is met by a defensive back that gets punished. The blocking is good to his right side, and he does a solid job finding the path and finishing strong.
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Booker is a 5-foot-11, 219-pound running back with a compact frame who possesses solid overall contact balance. He runs through arm tackles, plays with good functional strength, and has the vision to put himself into advantageous situations.
He’s not overly explosive, but he’s not a plodder either, but he does make some defenders pay when they fail to use the best tackling mechanics. Here’s a touchdown from his 2020 affair versus the Denver Broncos in week 10. It’s one of my favorite plays from Booker; it’s a split-zone run with Jason Witten (80) capping the end man on the line of scrimmage (EMOLOS).
A hole in the A-Gap opens up, and A.J. Johnson (45) fills quickly, but Booker can get skinny and shows impressive short-area quickness and agility to juke outside of Johnson’s immediate reach.
Booker then finishes strong by running through the arm tackle attempt and finding pay-dirt. He had 16 carries for 81 yards and two touchdowns in this game.
This play is a bit more similar to what the Giants ran last season - a power/gap style play with the backside guard pulling. The back-side guard pulls to the five-hole to locate the scraping linebacker, and Booker does a good job hitting the hole off the backside of the pulling guard and behind the combo block.
He then finishes by lowering his shoulder and falling forward through contact, something he does well.
We see some receiving chops from Booker here-- something he CAN undoubtedly do at a solid level. The video above isn’t exactly indicative of that; it’s just a quick dump-off on a third-and-19, and Booker gets 18.
I just really like the physicality Booker shows. He has quick feet, plays behind his pads, and takes on contact well. He’s got the frame, he runs low, and he has the power to make defenders bounce off him once his momentum gets going.
The Ugly: Pass Protection Consistency
I don’t believe this should be an “Ugly” here, but the reps I am going to show are sub-par. Booker can pass protect adequately, but it isn’t exceptional, and that may be how some people view him considering the contract that Gettleman gave the 28-year-old rusher.
These first two sacks come from his days with the Denver Broncos; he misses the cut block on the EDGE. I must state that this block is difficult. Isolating a running back against an EDGE on the outside is never desirable for an offense for this reason. Booker aims for the inside leg and doesn’t get enough of the EDGE rusher to affect him from not sacking the quarterback.
Booker crosses Keenum’s face here to pick up a creeper on the far side; he’s a bit late to recognize the blitz, so his feet were never set, and he didn’t prevent the inside move. Booker lunges, fails to have his feet underneath his body and gets exposed to surrender a sack.
These next two are from 2020. It’s a similar blitz pick-up assignment that we saw when he was with the Broncos. However, Booker’s strength is exposed in this play, and it’s not necessarily due to a lack of positioning.
It takes Booker a split second to realize the ensuing blitz, but he gets himself in a good position to execute the block. He attempts to throw his inside shoulder into the defensive back but falls off and barely affects the Blitzer. Last year’s third-down back, Dion Lewis, was much smaller than Booker, but he is a better pass protector.
Again, strength issues at the point of attack in pass protection. Booker is strong as a runner, but he doesn’t have this part of his game to the point of reliable consistency.
He locates the little twist in the A-Gap to pick up the linebacker, but he gets pushed back despite having a pad-level advantage. There are worse pass protectors than Booker, but he’s not exactly someone to write home about either.