Devonta Freeman is a full-fledged Giant now.
"I don’t see him as a new guy at all," Joe Judge said as the running back prepared for his third game with the Giants, having signed as a free agent after Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 of this season. "He’s definitely deep in our building right now, he’s deep in our program. We’ve got a lot of packages for him put together. As far as getting caught up on our playbook, I think he accomplished that a couple weeks ago."
Freeman, in fact, started for the Giants last week against the Rams. He figures to do so again Sunday against the Cowboys. The Giants still are committed to using a bit of a committee at the position, with Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman also getting a share of the snaps, but Freeman has stepped in and quickly become the top option in the room.
"I’m a lot more comfortable," he said of his new team. "Football is football. I’m catching up to the proper language here and just continuing to learn and elevate, continue to take my game to the next level. I’m a lot more comfortable and it’s going to be a week-by-week thing."
Freeman said he doesn’t worry about his "role" with the team or when he’ll play.
"I let the coaches, management handle that," he said. "That way I can be full speed at playing football instead of having to worry about all that other stuff."
But he does expect the running game to continue to improve . . . with or without him.
Last week was really the first time the Giants were able to mount much of a ground game. They ran for 136 yards, which may not sound like a lot, especially when you consider quarterback Daniel Jones was responsible for 45 of them. But in the second half, they ran for 91 yards on 14 carries, a rate of 6.5 per. In the seven halves of football before that, they had just 215 yards on 64 carries, or 3.4 per.
"With the run game, you need all 11 guys," Freeman said. "I feel like we are starting to click. Everybody is starting to do their job. To have a successful run game, it’s going to take all 11. Once we play unified, the sky is the limit for us."
The feeling that the Giants are close to getting their ground game going goes beyond the running back who showed up at their door 2 1/2 weeks ago, and it has little to do with the fact that they are playing a Cowboys team on Sunday that was gouged for 300 rushing yards last week.
"There hasn’t been a preseason. You can expect a lot of things to be slower and take time," Freeman said. "It’s a process. I definitely think you just need all 11 guys. That’s what we went out there and did last game. We’re going to build off that and just keep going and try to get better. All of us have been working hard all week long. Just try to get better every day."
"It was really the first time we were able to consistently run the football in a game," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said of last week’s performance. "That obviously makes everything else be much better. You continue to persist with it regardless, but you’re more likely to keep running the ball when you keep having success. We were able to do that. I think we were controlling the line of scrimmage as well as we have in the running game all year long. A lot of positive runs. I thought the guys did a good job up front blocking, not just the down guys but the tight ends. The receivers got involved and the runners ran the ball well, and we ran it different ways. That certainly helped us as the game wore on."
And having Freeman up to speed on the playbook certainly helped. He had 11 carries for 33 yards and four catches for 35 yards. Not exactly Barkley-like numbers, but enough to give the Giants hope that he can continue to improve.
"He’s done an excellent job since he’s been here," Garrett said. "He’s been a very good player in this league for a number of years, and you can see why. He’s a real professional in his approach, he loves ball, he works very hard to get himself physically, mentally and emotionally ready to play. He does that every day. He’s chomping at the bit for more opportunities."
On Sunday, he very well may get them.