Duvernay making fast case for bigger role in Ravens offense

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Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay works out during an NFL football camp practice, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh envisioned a big play from rookie Devin Duvernay, which came to fruition as one of the few bright spots in Monday’s 34-20 loss to Kansas City.

The third-round wide receiver’s 93-yard kick return in the first half was Baltimore’s only touchdown until early in the fourth quarter. Showcasing his speed before a national audience, Duvernay was clocked by Next Gen Stats at a top speed of 21.48 miles per hour, the fastest by an AFC ball carrier this season.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be a kick return or a catch, but I just knew it,” Harbaugh said. “I just felt compelled to tell him that. And he had a big smile on [his] face and said, ‘I hope so,’ or something like that. Right after the play, he came running off [and] said, ‘You called it coach! You called it! You said it was going to happen.’ Man, that was one of the most rewarding moments.

“It was just a little piece of a game. Those are the things as coaches we live for. It was awesome for him, awesome for all the guys, and it was a good play for us.”

The return touchdown was the best example yet of the impact Duvernay has made with limited opportunities. Playing just 24 offensive snaps over the first three games, the 23-year-old has made four catches for 38 yards on five targets, prompting many observers to call for increased playing time.

Harbaugh confirmed the 5-foot-11, 200-pound receiver is pushing for a larger role on offense, which coincides with the top wide receiver trio of Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, and Miles Boykin combining for only five catches for 25 yards in Monday’s loss. Duvernay has an early fan in quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has previously quipped about not wanting to alert opponents about the rookie’s elite speed.

“We’re going to see. I do see myself and him hitting on a couple passes this season,” Jackson said. “I tried to keep him a hidden secret, but that kick return was amazing. You guys saw that motor that he had.”

Also known for his reliable hands, Duvernay caught 106 passes for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior season at Texas. He also received a strong endorsement from actor and Texas fan Matthew McConaughhey during Monday’s game.

steal of the draft @Dev_Duv5 @Ravens

— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) September 29, 2020

All 53 practicing Wednesday

Every player on the active roster was present and working on Wednesday as Baltimore conducted a late-afternoon walk-through because of the quick turnaround from the Monday night game.

Health was different story for the Washington Football Team, however, as rookie defensive end Chase Young was one of seven players absent from Wednesday’s practice. Young, the second overall pick in April’s draft, isn’t expected to play against the Ravens due to a groin injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
LIMITED: LB L.J. Fort (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (abdomen), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), DE Derek Wolfe (elbow)
FULL: RB Justice Hill (thigh), DT Justin Madubuike (knee), WR Chris Moore (finger)

WASHINGTON
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Ryan Anderson (ankle), LB Cole Holcomb (knee), WR Dontrelle Inman (wrist), DE Ryan Kerrigan (non-injury), OT Morgan Moses (hip), WR Steven Sims Jr. (toe), DE Chase Young (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Saahdiq Charles (thigh)

Committing to run

Harbaugh disputed the perception that the Ravens abandoned the run too quickly in Monday’s loss while offering a strong endorsement of offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s play calling and reaffirming the commitment to be a running team.

Still, it was difficult not to notice a shift after Duvernay’s touchdown and a three-and-out from the Chiefs early in the second quarter. Despite the Ravens trailing only 13-10 and having run for 60 yards on their first six carries of the game, Jackson threw three straight passes resulting in a quick punt. Kansas City would score a touchdown on its ensuing drive, and Baltimore wouldn’t possess the ball with a one-score deficit again.

“Ebbs and flows of the game, sometimes it goes a different way. We trust each other,” said running back Mark Ingram, who carried just seven times for 30 yards for the game. “‘G-Ro’ is great trying to get the flow of the game and calling his plays according to how the game is flowing. Obviously, we want to run the ball, keep ball control, keep the time of possession, and keep them off the field. That’s a huge point of emphasis when you’re playing an explosive team that scores a lot of points.”

Where’s the hold?

Kevin Seifert of ESPN wrote an interesting piece on the deliberate shift in NFL officiating through the first three weeks of the season, noting the frequency of offensive holding calls being way down.

There were at least a few occasions when Ravens pass rushers appealed to officials for a holding call against the Kansas City offensive line.

“On the calls, I don’t know. But I know that our equipment staff keeps having to stitch my jersey up,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

The Ravens have yet to be flagged for an offensive holding penalty this season.

Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak

A prudent practice-squad decision made by general manager Eric DeCosta earlier this month was validated by Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak this week.

One of the Titans players testing positive was long snapper Beau Brinkley, leaving the organization scrambling to sign a replacement while their training facility remains closed. That very scenario is why DeCosta signed backup long snapper Nick Moore to the 16-man practice squad and why Moore has been one of the four players protected by Baltimore in each of the first four weeks of the season.

Harbaugh acknowledged Tennessee’s outbreak illustrating the need to remain vigilant.

“I just know the next team could be us, so let’s do the best we can to hope it doesn’t happen,” Harbaugh said. “If it does happen, we’ll try to work through it as best we can. What else can you do? We’re trying the best we can, and it’s actually working out pretty well. We’re doing pretty good.”

The Titans’ Week 4 meeting with Pittsburgh has been moved from Sunday to either Monday or Tuesday.

The third-round wide receiver’s 93-yard kick return in the first half was Baltimore’s only touchdown until early in the fourth quarter. Showcasing his speed before a national audience, Duvernay was clocked by Next Gen Stats at a top speed of 21.48 miles per hour, the fastest by an AFC ball carrier this season.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be a kick return or a catch, but I just knew it,” Harbaugh said. “I just felt compelled to tell him that. And he had a big smile on [his] face and said, ‘I hope so,’ or something like that. Right after the play, he came running off [and] said, ‘You called it coach! You called it! You said it was going to happen.’ Man, that was one of the most rewarding moments.

“It was just a little piece of a game. Those are the things as coaches we live for. It was awesome for him, awesome for all the guys, and it was a good play for us.”

The return touchdown was the best example yet of the impact Duvernay has made with limited opportunities. Playing just 24 offensive snaps over the first three games, the 23-year-old has made four catches for 38 yards on five targets, prompting many observers to call for increased playing time.

Harbaugh confirmed the 5-foot-11, 200-pound receiver is pushing for a larger role on offense, which coincides with the top wide receiver trio of Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, and Miles Boykin combining for only five catches for 25 yards in Monday’s loss. Duvernay has an early fan in quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has previously quipped about not wanting to alert opponents about the rookie’s elite speed.

“We’re going to see. I do see myself and him hitting on a couple passes this season,” Jackson said. “I tried to keep him a hidden secret, but that kick return was amazing. You guys saw that motor that he had.”

Also known for his reliable hands, Duvernay caught 106 passes for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns in his senior season at Texas. He also received a strong endorsement from actor and Texas fan Matthew McConaughhey during Monday’s game.

steal of the draft @Dev_Duv5 @Ravens

— Matthew McConaughey (@McConaughey) September 29, 2020

All 53 practicing Wednesday

Every player on the active roster was present and working on Wednesday as Baltimore conducted a late-afternoon walk-through because of the quick turnaround from the Monday night game.

Health was different story for the Washington Football Team, however, as rookie defensive end Chase Young was one of seven players absent from Wednesday’s practice. Young, the second overall pick in April’s draft, isn’t expected to play against the Ravens due to a groin injury.

Below is Wednesday’s full injury report:

BALTIMORE
LIMITED: LB L.J. Fort (thigh), DB Anthony Levine (abdomen), CB Jimmy Smith (knee), OT Ronnie Stanley (shoulder), DE Derek Wolfe (elbow)
FULL: RB Justice Hill (thigh), DT Justin Madubuike (knee), WR Chris Moore (finger)

WASHINGTON
DID NOT PARTICIPATE: DE Ryan Anderson (ankle), LB Cole Holcomb (knee), WR Dontrelle Inman (wrist), DE Ryan Kerrigan (non-injury), OT Morgan Moses (hip), WR Steven Sims Jr. (toe), DE Chase Young (groin)
LIMITED PARTICIPATION: OT Saahdiq Charles (thigh)

Committing to run

Harbaugh disputed the perception that the Ravens abandoned the run too quickly in Monday’s loss while offering a strong endorsement of offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s play calling and reaffirming the commitment to be a running team.

Still, it was difficult not to notice a shift after Duvernay’s touchdown and a three-and-out from the Chiefs early in the second quarter. Despite the Ravens trailing only 13-10 and having run for 60 yards on their first six carries of the game, Jackson threw three straight passes resulting in a quick punt. Kansas City would score a touchdown on its ensuing drive, and Baltimore wouldn’t possess the ball with a one-score deficit again.

“Ebbs and flows of the game, sometimes it goes a different way. We trust each other,” said running back Mark Ingram, who carried just seven times for 30 yards for the game. “‘G-Ro’ is great trying to get the flow of the game and calling his plays according to how the game is flowing. Obviously, we want to run the ball, keep ball control, keep the time of possession, and keep them off the field. That’s a huge point of emphasis when you’re playing an explosive team that scores a lot of points.”

Where’s the hold?

Kevin Seifert of ESPN wrote an interesting piece on the deliberate shift in NFL officiating through the first three weeks of the season, noting the frequency of offensive holding calls being way down.

There were at least a few occasions when Ravens pass rushers appealed to officials for a holding call against the Kansas City offensive line.

“On the calls, I don’t know. But I know that our equipment staff keeps having to stitch my jersey up,” defensive tackle Brandon Williams said. “That’s all I’m going to say about that.”

The Ravens have yet to be flagged for an offensive holding penalty this season.

Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak

A prudent practice-squad decision made by general manager Eric DeCosta earlier this month was validated by Tennessee’s COVID-19 outbreak this week.

One of the Titans players testing positive was long snapper Beau Brinkley, leaving the organization scrambling to sign a replacement while their training facility remains closed. That very scenario is why DeCosta signed backup long snapper Nick Moore to the 16-man practice squad and why Moore has been one of the four players protected by Baltimore in each of the first four weeks of the season.

Harbaugh acknowledged Tennessee’s outbreak illustrating the need to remain vigilant.

“I just know the next team could be us, so let’s do the best we can to hope it doesn’t happen,” Harbaugh said. “If it does happen, we’ll try to work through it as best we can. What else can you do? We’re trying the best we can, and it’s actually working out pretty well. We’re doing pretty good.”

The Titans’ Week 4 meeting with Pittsburgh has been moved from Sunday to either Monday or Tuesday.