Devonta Freeman Ready to Hit the Ground Running for Giants

Jackson Thompson

New Giants running back Devonta Freeman could have signed with another team, but instead, he wanted to wait until the right situation came along.

That situation happened to be with the Giants, who last weekend lost star running back Saquon Barkley to a torn ACL. But the show must go on, and Freeman, who went through his first practice with the Giants Wednesday, is working hard to get caught up as quickly as possible so that he can contribute in whatever way is asked of him by the coaches starting this weekend against the 49ers.

"We’re happy to have Devonta," head coach Joe Judge said Thursday. "The thing I see with him is he’s a ball guy. You can tell this guy has a lot of passion for the game; he has a lot of experience.

"I was very impressed yesterday out at practice with the fire he practiced with, the attention to detail, how fast he picked up on a lot of our system. He’s an experienced guy, but sometimes experience in other systems doesn’t always translate over to knowing the alphabet of what you’re doing.

"But he really did a good job of understanding what we’re doing in practice, being able to get in the huddle, break the huddle, know what to do and do it very effectively. It was very encouraging on day one."

The Giants, who appear to be planning to work with a committee appraoch at running back, will also work in Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman into the mix in the hopes of jumpstarting a running game that is currently ranked last in the NFL (52.0 yards per game).

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"Each individual has his individual talents that he's good at. My thing with those guys is that we just got to find a way to put them in the best situation," said Giants running backs coach Burton Burns. "We want these guys to be efficient in every facet of the game. Sometimes you're not going to get the runs that you want."

Ironically, Freeman's first game back in the NFL since being cut by the Atlanta Falcons will pit him against a team whose head coach, Kyle Shanahan, was once Freeman's offensive coordinator in Atlanta.

Freeman emerged as one of the most productive running backs in the NFL under Shanahan's offensive leadership from 2015-16. In Shanahan's system, Freeman accumulated 3,175 yards from scrimmage and 27 touchdowns over two years en-route to two straight Pro Bowl appearances.

"[The Giants] are getting a [heck] of a player and a [heck] of a guy," Shanahan said. "He's a really good runner, a really good out of the backfield as a [receiver] and a really good teammate all around."

Freeman might not be a replica of Barkley, but he still brings similar versatility in the passing game and the running game. According to Pro Football Focus, he's lined up in the slot on 88 snaps and out wide on 166 snaps in his career, racking up 2,015 receiving yards on 257 catches in six seasons.

Freeman, who now must work himself into football shape, didn't know how many snaps were in store for him this weekend, but he said he'll take however many snaps the coaches need him to.

"What do I want to get accomplished? One game at a time, win. Take it one game at a time and try to win," Freeman said of this new opportunity.

"This is a long season, it’s a tough season. Try to stay healthy and try to win one game at a time. When it’s all said and done, hopefully, win the big game, but I don’t want to look too far down the road. Main thing is just one play at a time, one quarter at a time, one game at a time."

And contribute, which Freeman believes he can still do at a high enough level.

"I know I still have a lot in the tank and I just want to go out and play football and have fun," he said.

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