Is It Time to Accelerate Devin Duvernay's Role in the Offense?
It just doesn't feel right to apply the word "gradual" to rookie wide receiver Devin Duvernay, whose explosive speed was on full display during his 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.
However, the adjective does accurately reflect his role in the Ravens' offense. The third-round pick was targeted a combined five times in the past two games after receiving one target in each of the first two contests. Against Washington this past Sunday, Duvernay played a season-high 16 snaps on offense.
Duvernay, who is averaging a league-leading 34 yards on kickoff returns, said recently that he's ready for a larger role in the offense, and Head Coach John Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman indicated it may be forthcoming.
Ebony Bird's Chris Schisler said getting the ball to Duvernay significantly more should be a priority for an offense that ranks 31st in passing yards per game.
"Duvernay could be a shot in the arm of the passing game. Get him the ball on screens, crossing routes, slants, it doesn't matter how you do it," Schisler wrote. "The key should be increasing the yards after the catch by getting Duvernay in the open field with the football. Duvernay could make things easier for [Lamar] Jackson in the passing game."
During Duvernay's career at Texas, he displayed sure hands and quick feet. He dropped one pass in four years and had 176 receptions. Duvernay also led all draft-eligible receivers with 719 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
"He's going to catch the football, and he's going to do something with the opportunity," Schisler wrote.
Penn Live's Aaron Kasinitz also thinks Duvernay could give the offense a spark.
"Duvernay pulled in just one reception for four yards against Washington, but his playing time suggests the Ravens are expanding his role, even if the growth is gradual," Kasinitz wrote. "That's an important development for a team searching to find a consistently productive pass-catching option behind tight end Mark Andrews and receiver Marquise Brown.
"Perhaps within a few weeks, Duvernay will be on the field often enough to become that No. 3 target — or at least infuse the offense with a jolt of playmaking punch."
Gus Edwards 'As Reliable As They Come' As a Rusher
Another player who saw increased offensive snaps on Sunday was Gus Edwards, who led Ravens running backs in snaps (22) for the first time this season. Edwards continues to be highly productive when he's on the field.
"Edwards ranks third in the league and second among qualifying running backs with 6.2 yards per carry, almost a yard better than his 2019 mark (5.3)," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. " … Maybe most impressively, few backs have faced more congested defensive fronts than Edwards has. According to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, Edwards has run against eight or more defenders in the box on 40.7% of his carries, the league's second-highest rate."
Shaffer noted that the 6-foot-1, 238-pound Edwards is limited as a pass-catcher — he has nine career receptions and hasn't been targeted yet this season — "but as a rusher, Edwards is as reliable as they come."
"Of his 27 carries this season, 11 have been converted into first downs, a 40.7% success rate; few running backs with over 100 rushing yards this season are even above 30%," Shaffer wrote. "On third and fourth downs this season, Edwards has moved the chains on five of his six carries."
With that type of production, it's no wonder playing time for the third-year undrafted free agent from Rutgers has increased. The Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore's opponent this Sunday, has a solid pass defense, so the ground game could be especially important, Shaffer wrote, which may mean Edwards' upward trend in snaps continues.
Marshal Yanda Talks About Life After the NFL
The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec caught up with former Ravens right guard Marshal Yanda to talk about his post-NFL life.
Yanda, who has undergone an amazing physical transformation since retiring after last season, said he is down to 240 pounds after weighing as much as 320 during his playing days.
"You just didn't realize how much weight you were carrying around," Yanda said from his farm in Iowa. "I was a big kid in high school and I just didn't realize how much it affected you. Number one, your energy levels. I have a lot more energy. Flexibility, as far as bending down and tying your shoes or bending over to pick something up. I would say another big thing is going up and down the stairs and not having the aches and pains in my ankles and stuff like that."
Here are some additional excerpts from the eight-time Pro Bowler's conversation with Zrebiec:
Comparing the 2019 Ravens to this year's team: "I feel like you can't ever compare. People want to, fans want to and analysts want to. But that was a completely different team. Every year, you have to start at the bottom and you have to climb the mountain. It doesn't get any easier. It's going to be a different team and there are going to be different struggles. It's not where you start, it's where you finish. But come on, they are 3-1, they're looking good. They played the red-hot Chiefs and they are, by far, the best team in the NFL right now. That's good, because it was only Week 3. They have the whole year to improve. It's not about being red hot in September. It's nice to be red hot, but no, I don't worry about that. I understand that there's a long road ahead. Heck, they're 3-1. They're doing a really good job."
Thoughts on rookie Tyre Phillips at right guard: "I haven't met him, but he looks like a big, strong kid. Football brings out the best in everybody in competition and you expected (D.J.) Fluker to win the job. Obviously, that kid must have played really well (in training camp). So far, he's done a nice job for them. He looks like a big, strong kid who can move people."
Spending more time around the Ravens in the future: "I definitely want to, for sure. Obviously, with the corona deal, you can't really be around as much as you want to. But we did want to come back three or four different times during this football season. Baltimore is still our home and we still love Baltimore. … Football is still a big part of our lives. We're still going to figure that dynamic out, too, how much football I'm going to want in my life. That's still a moving target and I'm trying not to predetermine what lies ahead. I'm just enjoying my time right now, but I love football and football has been so good to me and my family and we'll have to see how much of that we'll have in our lives as time goes on. But it doesn't feel like I've been out for very long. It just feels like yesterday I was suiting up. Things are flying by."
Patrick Queen Is Among Top-Ranked Rookies at Season's Quarter Mark
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen was ranked No. 11 in NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah's top 25 rookie rankings at the season's quarter mark.
"He's been a sideline-to-sideline force for the Ravens defense versus the run," Jeremiah wrote. "Queen also excels in coverage."
Queen, who was selected 28th-overall, was the third-highest rated defensive player on Jeremiah's list, behind Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield and Washington defensive end Chase Young.
Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, Queen's teammate at LSU, took the No. 1 spot. Both players acknowledged yesterday that they were extremely competitive with each other during practices and are looking forward to playing against each other Sunday.
"It was a crazy relationship between us," Queen said. "As word got out, some things got heated sometimes, and that's just the competitor in both of us, and we're still good friends to this day."
Said Burrow: "Like I said last week, there was a lot of trash talk going on in practice. I'm excited to play against him."