EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Devontae Booker leads all running backs in first-team reps in the Giants' training camp, but he is a reserve in waiting. At some point, Saquon Barkley is going to reclaim his spot in the starting offense, and Booker will become more of a situational player.
Booker, a sixth-year veteran who joined the Giants as a free agent this year, isn't at all anxious about losing his current status.
"I just go out there every day and just try to be a better running back and be better on how I can help our group be better," he said today. "I don't know what else is going to happen. I just go out there and work hard. Like I said, just try to be the best I can be every day, and just do whatever I can do to help our team out."
Barkley is currently on the physically unable to perform/active list as he continues rehabilitating his right knee, which was operated on last Oct. 30. He's been running and cutting in on-field workouts with the athletic trainers, but no target date has been announced for Barkley's return.
He is clearly eager to get back in uniform.
"He talks about it every day," Booker said. "We can't wait till he gets back. We see that he's working hard, and that's all we can ask at the end of the day for him."
Barkley participates in the offensive and running backs meetings and counsels the other running backs in practice.
"That's very helpful," Booker said. "We talk about different situations every day out there on the field after it happens. I'll just be asking him on certain techniques that he makes. We work off each other and talk about stuff that will help either one ofus out. You see us all the time talking about stuff, like different situations, or route running, or whatever it may be."
Booker played four years with the Denver Broncos and the 2020 season for the Las Vegas Raiders. He has 1,526 rushing yards, 122 receptions and has scored 10 touchdowns.
While nothing approaches the thrill of game day, Booker is clearly enjoying the camp competition the offense has with the Giants' defense.
"We go out there and just work hard and be the best each day out there," he said. "The defense talks a lot of crap to us every day, more on the little plays they make. So, we go out there and try to light them up each day we come out here. They don't like it at all. From the scrimmage just earlier, they were pretty mad and pissed off, but that happens some days. Some days, we start off good, or some days, they may start high, and we've got to pick up the slack."
*It is not uncommon for the players in one position group to compete to be the best or most productive member of the group. The members of the Giants' secondary are waging a different kind of rivalry, to see who is the smartest among them.
"I think we try to figure out who knows the most," second-year safety Xavier McKinney said. "It makes each and every one of us better at the end of the day, whether that's just preparation, whether that's coming out here and executing. We kind of do it all around. We actually tally up some things when we're out here on the field just as far as making plays, seeing who can make the most plays and just seeing who can be the most vocal out on the field."
*As camp progresses, players occasionally have their workload reduced on certain days, as tackle Andrew Thomas and cornerback Adoree' Jackson did earlier this week. Players sometimes leave practice early for reasons that are not injury related. Coach Joe Judge said it's all part of the master camp plan.
"There's actually a lot of guys that are kind of playing based on whether – physically, every day we may bring out for indy (individuals) only, indy and teach," Judge said. "Some guys may be part of rehab, whatever it is, so we bring them something extra. It's all independent and different. There are different ailments this time of year that we get different guys at practice and then it's more beneficial to them to go back in the training room or the weight room while it's more empty and they can get focused, one-on-one attention."
*Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett were each asked this week if the Giants will incorporate more pre-snap motion into their attack this season.
"Motion is, obviously if you followed our offense last year, a big part of what we've done," Garrett said. "Last year, we ran a lot more of the no-huddle stuff around the line of scrimmage where you don't run as much motion. We were using tempo, sometimes we went fast, sometimes we went slow. We weren't in the huddle as much last year … Motion and shifting and movement, all that stuff has been a big part of what we've done in the past and if we feel like it applies to a particular game plan, we'll certainly use it."
Judge was asked today, "Is that (motion) something you think you guys should do more or is there some philosophical reason why you didn't use it maybe as much as other teams?
"I'm not going to delve into last year's offense," Judge said. "I will say obviously we had a large focus this year on things we have to do better as a team on all three phases. Each game plan for us is very independent. So, some may have more motion and shifts than others based on the tempo we're playing at, based on the opponent we're playing against, based on the players we have available. That's something we're always going to look to use and implement. You look at our offense right now and you can obviously see this time of year, there is a lot of movement. It's great for our defense as well. It forces communication on defense and the adjustments they're going to show. Offensively, it forces our guys to break the huddle and handle multiples and start building on what they have to retain. In terms of what we're going to do game by game going forward, I couldn't give you an answer on that right now. Is movement part of our offensive package? It is, like any other team. We'll measure what we think is necessary per game plan as we get going."
*The Giants will perform in front of fans in MetLife Stadium twice next week: at their sold out FanFest event Wednesday evening and the preseason opener next Saturday against the Jets. It will be the first crowds in their home stadium since the 2019 season finale.
The noise that is generated there and at practice – where it will be used more extensively - will help acclimate the players to the aural conditions they will face during the season.
"That's actually a large part of how we're going to focus," Judge said. "We went through this initial install, you guys hear it all the time with music being at practice. That's not just for noise and trying to get the juices going, that's for forced communication. So, we build it in through our individual teaching periods and starting next week we're going to carry it over a lot to the team periods, as well. Anything that's going to come up in a game, whether it's crowd noise or blasting noise, just forces extra communication. Whether it's ball security, we put the grease balls out there early in practice, make sure they're extra slick so that we handle the ball in the worst conditions.
"When it's any type of situation that's going to come up, we're going to always make sure we present it to the players in as challenging a situation as we can, so when they have the opportunity to execute it in a game they've already been through it in as much of a simulated pressure situation possible. We've got to try and make sure that we put them in a position where when they have that experience in a game, they've already had that experience in practice."
*The Giants added two players to their roster late this afternoon. They claimed tight end Jake Hausmann off waivers from the Detroit Lions and signed free agent defensive back Chris Johnson.
Hausmann, 6-4 and 255 pounds, joined the Lions as a rookie free agent on May 14 and was waived yesterday. An outstanding blocker, Hausmann caught just three passes for 26 yards and one touchdown – on a four-yard reception at Rutgers in 2019 - in 27 career games. He played just five games as a senior in 2020.
Johnson, 6-3 and 200 pounds, was signed by the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He spent the first five weeks of that season on Houston's practice squad and two weeks in December on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. In 2020, Johnson was signed by the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 6 and waived on Aug. 2.
Johnson began his collegiate career at the University at Albany before transferring to North Alabama for his final two seasons. In 2018, he made 47 tackles and intercepted two passes for North Alabama and helped lead the Lions to a 7-3 record. In his first season at UNA, Johnson was an All-American honoree in NCAA Division II after finishing with 50 tackles, two tackles for loss and six interceptions.
*The Giants are off tomorrow and will return to the field on Monday afternoon.
Check out the top photos from Saturday's training camp practice at Quest Diagnostics Training Center.