Devontae Booker finding niche in Raiders’ backfield
Booker spent his first four seasons toiling away in Denver, primarily playing special teams while other running backs hoarded the carries he believed he should be getting.
Updated October 21, 2020 - 3:42 pm
The onus was on Raiders running backs coach Kirby Wilson. He believed backup Devontae Booker could help Las Vegas win football games.
He just had to figure out how.
“I told (Booker), ‘I’ve got to do a better job … getting you more involved in the offense,” Wilson said. “We think we’re on a really good pace right now to do that moving forward. It just took awhile to figure that out.”
Booker spent his first four seasons toiling away in Denver, primarily playing special teams while other running backs hoarded the carries he believed he should be getting. But he’s finding a niche in Las Vegas as a complement to Josh Jacobs and could see an uptick in carries amid a productive start.
He has 121 rushing yards on 17 carries, good for 7.1 yards per attempt. Booker had seven carries for 62 yards in a 40-32 victory over the Chiefs on Oct. 11, including a 43-yard burst that helped set up a score in the first half.
“It’s good to have a running back that can come in and take advantage of some reps,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said.
Booker hails from Sacramento, California, and signed with Washington State before reversing course and attending American River College in nearby North Highlands, California. He signed with Utah in 2013 and was twice a Pac-12 All-Conference honoree, rushing for 1,261 yards as a junior and 1,521 yards as a senior and totaling 622 receiving yards.
He was drafted by the Broncos in the fourth round in 2016 NFL and posted 612 rushing yards on 174 carries as a rookie. He logged just 115 rushing attempts from 2017 through 2019 and played 45 percent of the special teams snaps last season.
“We knew what he had been doing in Denver,” Wilson said. “He just had a couple of lean years the last couple in Denver where he didn’t get the opportunities. … We knew it was a work in progress and once we got him up to speed and in our offense that he would have an impact.”
Booker has played only 13 percent of the offensive snaps this season, but he did log playing time on a season-high 21 percent of snaps against Kansas City.
It’s a start.
“Honestly, when I was in Denver, I didn’t feel like I did get the touches I needed or even just the playing time,” Booker said. “I’ve been doing this even when I wasn’t. I just continue to keep working. … The only thing I can do is control what I can control. As of right now, I’m loving the team, loving the opportunity I’m getting.”
Gruden didn’t want to predict the performance of defensive end David Irving, who signed this week with the Raiders’ practice squad after sitting out last season.
“We’re excited to have an opportunity to help him redeem his career,” Gruden said. “He’s not been in football in some time. And I’m looking forward to putting him in Silver and Black and seeing what happens.”
Irving last played in 2018 and was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for substance abuse violations. He had 12½ sacks in 37 career games for the Dallas Cowboys from 2015-2018.
Aside from the team’s coronavirus-related absences, wide receiver Bryan Edwards (foot/ankle) did not participate in practice. And neither did cornerback Keisean Nixon (groin). Defensive tackle Maliek Collins (shoulder) was a limited participant, as were cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring) and defensive end Carl Nassib (toe).
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