Devontae Booker is beginning to show what he can do when given a chance to run the ball after being relegated almost exclusively to a special teams role at the end of his tenure in Denver.
Booker has emerged as a productive complement to Las Vegas Raiders bell-cow back Josh Jacobs and gets the chance to show the Broncos what they missed out on when they didn’t use him much the past few years.
Booker and the Raiders (5-3) will host the Broncos (3-5) on Sunday with Booker coming off his most productive game since 2018.
“Just a little bit I guess, knowing that I had played there four years and stuff like that,” Booker said Thursday when asked if the game this week meant more to him. “Of course, I want to go out and win and beat these guys. But I don’t want to talk about it so much. We just got to go out there and win.”
Booker has played a key role on the Raiders this season after being an overlooked offseason addition who wasn’t even certain to make the team in training camp.
He has gained 223 yards rushing on just 33 carries, with his 6.8 yard average per attempt ranking the best among all running backs with at least 30 carries.
He has played big roles in four of the Raiders' five wins, delivering key plays when Jacobs has been on the sideline getting needed rest. The Raiders didn’t have that option last year when their backups were mostly smaller backs who excelled as receivers more than runners.
“We wanted someone with a similar style, with a skill set, as Josh, not the lighter type of back,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson said. “We have that obviously in Jalen Richard and Theo Riddick. We have some guys that can be choice route runners out of the backfield. But we wanted someone that could handle the load if we had to hand it to them 30 times a game and we felt that Devontae Booker was that guy. ... He has been a real pleasant addition for us.”
Booker is coming off his best game of the season when he ran for 68 yards on eight carries in a 31-26 victory over the Chargers. His 23-yard TD run opened the scoring that game.
That’s more yards than he gained in his final 24 games with the Broncos, where he went from a promising fourth-round pick who ran for 612 yards as a rookie in 2016 to mostly an afterthought.
By his final year in Denver in 2019, Booker got only two carries for 9 yards in 16 games as he was almost exclusively a special teams player.
”‘Book’ is a good back, he just needed his opportunity and he’s made the most of it out there with the Raiders,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said. “I’ve been very impressed with his play. His stats bear that out, his film bears that out, and they’re using him and he’s a damn good back.”
NOTES: The Raiders placed LB Cory Littleton on the COVID-19 list. They didn’t say whether he tested positive or had close contact with someone who had the coronavirus. ... CB Trayvon Mullen returned to practice on a limited basis after leaving the game Sunday with a hamstring injury and missing practice on Wednesday.
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