If it looks like the Giants have a glut of running backs on their roster, they do. And it’s by design.
“At that position we are looking for a lot of depth,’’ Giants coach Joe Judge said Thursday. “Running backs have to have a role offensively and in the kicking game. You’re going to play more than one in each game and you need more than one running back to sustain a season. It’s a physical position and obviously a lot of wear and tear so you need a lot of depth, and not just the depth but you need different body types, skill sets to really complement your offense.’’
The Giants, of course, lost their top back, Saquon Barkley, to a right knee injury early last season and he’s still rehabbing it with hopes to be ready for the regular season.
The Giants also recently signed running back Corey Clement. Earlier in free agency, they signed Devontae Booker to a two-year deal worth $5.5 million. They, too, added running back Ryquell Armstead off of waivers. In all, the Giants list six running backs and a fullback on their OTA roster.
“Corey, I’ve known him for a long time now and admired the way he’s played both in the offense and kicking game,’’ Judge said. “He’s got some experience and I was pleased with the way he came to rookie minicamp being a vet on a trial basis and really attacked it. I liked the way he worked on a daily basis and liked what I saw in terms of him coming in in shape and condition and working on the field.
“That’s what led us to sign him right there.’’
Among the key players not in attendance at the voluntary OTA Thursday included DL Leonard Williams, DL Dexter Lawrence, DL B.J. Hill, DT Austin Johnson, OLB Cam Brown, OLB Ryan Anderson, ILB Reggie Ragland, CB Adoree’ Jackson, CB James Bradberry, S Logan Ryan, S Jabrill Peppers, CB Aaron Robinson, CB Darnay Holmes, CB Sam Beal, CB Isaac Yiadom, S Xavier McKinney, S Julian Love. Kicker Graham Gano also wasn’t there.
With the secondary essentially missing every key player, it looked like a scout-team session back there with the likes of Josh Kalu, Madre Harper, Jarren Williams, Chris Milton and rookie Rodarius Williams getting all the work. Most of those players are long shots at best to make the final roster.
On the offensive line, though, the Giants had full attendance with all the projected starters — LT Andrew Thomas, G Shane Lemieux, C Nick Gates, G Will Hernandez and T Matt Peart (along with backups like Nate Solder, Jonotthan Harrison and Zach Fulton) practicing.
Thursday was a first for media to watch linebacker Azeez Ojulari, the team’s second-round draft pick, with the entire team.
“He’s a freaky-looking player,’’ veteran linebacker Blake Martinez said Thursday. “Just watching him today, he made some great plays out there in practice, showed some athleticism, things like that. It’s OTAs [and] you got to wait ‘til we put the pads on, [but] so far I think he’s done really well.’’
Martinez was bummed to lose defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, who left the team via free agency for Minnesota in the offseason.
“I love Dalvin — one of my really good friends,’’ he said. “Actually, I talked to him [Wednesday]. I’m super-excited for him no matter if he was on our team or going to another team. [He’s an] extremely smart player.’’
Former first-round draft pick Danny Shelton, the 6-foot-2, 345-pound defensive tackle the Giants signed in the offseason, figures to fill one of the roles Tomlinson played.
Martinez said he was “joking the other day’’ about Shelton: “No wonder he was drafted in the first round. You get three picks in one, just how big he is.
“I tell him every single day, ‘I’m glad I have you in front of me. I literally can’t see double-teams so there’s no way they can get to me.’’
It was a welcome sight for everyone to see linebacker Lorenzo Carter on the field. Carter’s 2020 season ended when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon last October in Dallas.
“It’s awesome seeing a guy come back from an injury like that,’’ Martinez said. “I’m excited for him. I know he’s put in a ton of work this off-season getting ready to go. He’s just doing his thing out there.’’
Receiver Sterling Shepard, who changed his number from 87 to 3, said he had been waiting for the league to change its rule on what numbers certain position groups must wear.
The rule changed this offseason and Shepard jumped at No. 3 for important personal reasons.
“It’s something that means a lot to me,’’ Shepard said after Thursday’s OTA practice. “It’s been a number that I’ve been wearing since I was a little kid, after my father passed. He wore No. 3 in college. That’s something that meant a lot to me, a lot to his teammates. I wanted to carry that on. When I came into the league, you couldn’t get single digits. Whenever the rule changed, I was happy to grab that.’’
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