Ravens rookie WR Devin Duvernay’s role in the offense continues to grow
While second-round running back J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State has been generating the most buzz lately, he isn’t the only Baltimore Ravens rookie on the offensive side of the ball that has been turning heads and impressing the coaching staff in training camp.
Third-round wide receiver Devin Duvernay out of Texas has made his fair share of highlight-reel plays, especially down the field, and according to Head Coach John Harbaugh, his role on offense is increasing daily.
“He’s earning more and more every day,” Harbaugh said when asked about Duvernay’s possible role. “He’s done a really good job. He’s a hard worker. He doesn’t say a lot, but he works a lot. He’s been especially good downfield tracking balls in terms of the deep ball. I think he’s going to have a role.”
While second-year wideout Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown is expected to be the team’s primary deep threat this year and has been one of the brightest stars in training camp by showcasing his elite speed, Duvernay has shown that he can be a field stretcher that gets behind defenses as well.
He ran one of the fastest times in the 40-yard dash in this year’s NFL Scouting Combine with a mark of 4.39 which was tied for the fifth-fastest among receivers and tied for the seventh-fastest among all players, so he possesses the speed to burn cornerbacks deep down the field.
However, where he does some of his best work is after the catch and particularly after contact. He runs with the tackle-breaking physicality of a running back after the catch and has the body frame of a box safety so he’ll bring a different dimension to the slot receiver position, that he primarily played in college, that the Ravens don’t currently have with the superb blocker and chain mover in veteran Willie Snead.
As dynamic and dominant as Duvernay working out of the slot with the Longhorns, he’s shown in training camp with the Ravens that he can be just as lethal lined up out wide. He has also embraced a potential role on special teams returning kicks and punts. He and fellow rookie James Proche are in the mix for the starting job and have impressed coaches in practice.
The transition from the college to the pros can be difficult for most rookies, especially at the receiver position where guys are used to being better and more athletic than the defensive backs they lined up against on Saturdays.
With the season opener less than a fortnight away and no preseason to serve as a sampler or litmus test for youngsters like Duvernay and the rest of the rookie class, the Ravens held a live scrimmage this past Saturday and it simulated the game-like atmosphere that the 22-year old was hoping for.
“Being able to fly around, go live, and hit each other, I think that was a good chance to help that transition,” Duvernay said. “I’m a rookie now, starting over. I’m going to have to continue to develop and earn people’s respect.”
Both Duvernay and Proche have looked more polished than the typical rookie wide receiver in camp after a nonexistent offseason that was forced to be conducted virtually. While some of that can be attributed to their natural talent, they also took a proactive approach to their preparation by training with Ravens backup quarterback Robert Griffin III.
As instrumental as that work with Griffin was to help lessen their learning curve heading into camp, it has been a bit surprising to see the almost instantaneous rapport that Duvernay especially has shown with reigning league MVP and starting quarterback Lamar Jackson according to reports.
Since the team hit the field in shorts and helmets their connection has been strong, and it continued to blossom once the pads came on as well. The rookie is ecstatic to be catching passes from one of the best players in the league and intends to build even better chemistry as the year goes on.
“He has a strong arm, puts a lot of zip on the ball, but very catchable,” Duvernay said. “It’s been great to be able to play with him. Never would have thought I’d be playing with a guy like this. I’m super-excited for the future.”
The Ravens value and find ways to incorporate players with diverse and dynamic skill sets into their game plan on both sides of the ball. They also like to reward those that work the hardest and consistently perform in practice with more playing time in meaningful games because they can be trusted to know what they are doing and how to execute at a high level. If Duvernay keeps up his good work, he’ll carve out a nice role for himself in the Ravens offense that was the top-scoring unit in 2019.
Heading into camp both Harbaugh and Jackson have expressed their desire to want to stress and take advantage of opposing defenses downfield in 2020. Since they are anticipated more bodies will be dedicated to the box to help slow down their potent rushing attack that shattered record last season. That means players like Duvernay and Brown will have plenty of opportunities in one-on-one coverage to make plays in the passing game at every level and they will be counted on to capitalize.