This Ravens playmaker is quietly turning into a star

Ravens, Devin Duvernay Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Ravens, Devin Duvernay Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports /

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay, a 2021 Pro Bowler known for his prolific kick-returning talents, has come back in 2022 with a vengeance.

Drafted in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft from the University of Texas, Duvernay has already established himself as a dangerous weapon. Now he is turning into much more.

In his first two seasons, Duvernay totaled 53 catches for just under 500 receiving yards. With that, he added 122 rushing yards and one kick return touchdown.

In his Pro Bowl season, the AFC’s return man didn’t even score a touchdown on special teams, but his explosive production led the Ravens to strong field positioning and he made a clear impact. Teams now must kick away from him, if not they typically pay a price.

The 5-foot-11 receiver comes with a strong 210-pound frame. He may look like a running back but, Duvernay is most certainly a wide receiver.

With 4.39 40-yard dash speed, you would think that means straight-line speed. Duvernay, though has incredible quickness, has great balance, and is a powerful runner.

In addition to his running ability, Duvernay is a strong receiver. He is technically sound and can run the full route tree from the slot and on the outside. Duvernay also has strong hands, which is essential to develop into a starting-caliber wide receiver or more.

Throughout college, Duvernay displayed his potential, making him worthy of the Ravens’ selection. Totaling 176 receptions and almost 2,500 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns, Duvernay did his best work in his senior season.

That year he was third in the country in receptions behind Justin Jefferson and fellow Ravens wideout James Proche. Behind Duvernay was Michael Pittman Jr. These are some high-quality names, not just in college but in the pros to be compared to.

With that college production, the Ravens expected big things, and thus far Duvernay has produced. But they may not have known how good of a pick he could be. Truthfully, there is no way to know how good he can be which is a very exciting realization to come to.

Devin Duvernay has come into his own for the Ravens in 2022

This season, Duvernay has been a focal point of the Ravens’ offense. Many urged the Ravens to add to the position, but they held firm, only adding Demarcus Robinson, a similarly-styled receiver to Duvernay. With that, Duvernay was still elevated to the starting lineup.

Between Duvernay, Mark Andrews, and Rashod Bateman, the Ravens have found a trio of reliable targets that have formed a good connection with quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Last week, Bateman, was out with a foot injury — one that is lingering into the Week 6 matchup against the New York Giants and potentially longer. With that, Duvernay had his best performance as a receiver to date.

As the No. 1 receiver, Duvernay was targeted a total of 10 times. With five catches on seven targets, Duvernay tallied 54 receiving yards, all of which were career highs. His other three touches came on designed runs to him for a total of 24 yards. His 78 total scrimmage yards were also a career-high.

In this game, we saw him line up all over the field. In the first drive alone, I tracked his snaps. He played two snaps as the outside receiver, three as the slot receiver, and one as the running back. In most of these plays, he was featured. We even saw him turn a botched snap into a first down.

If coming across the formation to be the primary target on play-action plays, being given tosses as the running back, and being a strong run blocker in the run game was not enough, Duvernay was able to make first downs and clutch play to help progress multiple drives.

In Week 5, the Ravens took Duvernay’s potential and put it on display in a big primetime divisional opponent for the world to see.

With Bateman already being ruled out this coming week, Duvernay is in line for another big performance. Every defense will be preparing for Mark Andrews and the running game. With Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins getting healthier by the day, the offense is starting to turn a corner.

Duvernay has the best opportunity in his career ahead of him — he can become a staple in the offense for years to come. As a receiver, Duvernay can be essential, not just utilizing his speed down the field, but with progressing drives with first downs.

This begs the question of whether or not the Ravens should line him up at running back more. This is something that would get the ball in his hands more and allow him to utilize his playmaking. Doing this would make him similar to how the San Francisco 49ers use Deebo Samuel.

With similar builds, successful college careers, and blazing speed, it is an obvious comparison. One with merit considering Samuel’s success in his career being utilized as both a receiver and a running back. What Duvernay adds that Samuel doesn’t is in the return game.

Considering all of the variables, Duvernay has a clear path toward stardom, which continues on Sunday. Against his team’s former defensive coordinator, Don “Wink” Martindale, a game like this will be his time to shine through.

As Bateman gets healthy, it will be essential for the Ravens to have a target like Duvernay. It will help keep the offense rolling while he is gone, ease the burden for Bateman as he returns and progress it to new heights once it returns to full health.

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With a full array of weapons, head coach John Harbaugh has a lot of tools. When teams are preparing for the dynamic run game behind Lamar Jackson and friends, the passing game led by Jackson and Andrews, having not one, but two electric weapons at receiver will make it that much easier to score points and win games.