Three Ravens Who Could Have Bigger Roles Next Season, Including an All-Pro
Devin Duvernay's second season culminated with selections to the All-Pro first team and Pro Bowl as a return specialist.
Next season, Duvernay could be in line for a bigger role in the offense. The speedy wide receiver was one of three players Baltimore Beatdown’s Frank Platko believes could make an impact with expanded roles in 2022.
Defensive tackle Broderick Washington and safety Geno Stone were the other two.
Duvernay saw a modest increase in his usage this past season. He had 13 more catches and 21 more targets than he did as a rookie to finish with 33 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns.
"Duvernay showed a broadened catch radius at times and continued to be an explosive yards-after-catch threat with the ball in his hands," Platko wrote. "With more usage, he can do a lot of good things for the Ravens' offense. He's a big play waiting to happen."
Some of those big plays possibly could come from Duvernay being used as a runner, similar to the way the San Francisco 49ers utilize Deebo Samuel. Duvernay had seven carries for 50 yards this past season but rarely lined up in the backfield.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said in December that the Ravens have "tons of stuff sitting in the vault" when asked about using Duvernay more in the backfield. Perhaps the vault will be unlocked next season.
As for Duvernay's role in the passing game, Platko said the potential departure of veteran Sammy Watkins in free agency could solidify Duvernay as the No. 3 wide receiver behind Marquise "Hollywood" Brown and Rashod Bateman.
Washington, who played on 32 percent of defensive snaps this season, could see an increase in playing time, as veteran starters Calais Campbell and Justin Houston are pending free agents, as is reserve Justin Ellis.
"Washington flashed some surprising pass-rushing upside [against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16] that suggests he could be more than just a traditional run-stuffer," Platko wrote. "In an expanded rotational and spot-starter role, Washington could be an effective player for Mike Macdonald's defense in 2022. Because of the question marks at the position group, the opportunity for more playing time should be there for the taking."
Stone, who spent most of his rookie season in 2020 on the practice squad, played in 15 games this past season, mostly on special teams. When he got an opportunity for more playing time on defense late in the season, Stone played well.
"In his first career start against the Packers in Week 15, Stone played 100% of defensive snaps and was one of the team's leading tacklers," Platko wrote. "In the season finale versus Pittsburgh, Stone made a timely interception while also recording a pass breakup. He flashed good ball skills and coverage range, which were two of his main calling cards coming out of college."
Pundit Says New Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald Was the Right Hire
Ravens Wire’s Kevin Oestreicher. had several takeaways from new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald's introductory press conference. Here's a look at three.
Macdonald was the right hire for Baltimore.
"The Ravens interviewed plenty of qualified candidates who would have been great defensive coordinators for them. However, after his press conference on Wednesday it's clear that Baltimore came out of the hiring process with the right coach in Macdonald.
With his familiarity of the organization, his growth from outside of the franchise, and demonstrated success, there's little question as to why Macdonald was the Ravens' choice. His resumé speaks for itself, and he should be a major part in the recovery that Baltimore is looking for out of their defense."
Macdonald has a plan and a vision for what he wants the Ravens' defense to be.
"Over the course of his press conference, Macdonald was asked a few questions about the Baltimore defense and what it could look like in 2022 and beyond. He answered each question in detail without revealing too much, which showed that he's been thinking long and hard about the types of things that he wants to implement with his new group of players."
Parts of Wink Martindale's defenses are going to stay in place.
"Macdonald talked about over-communicating to players as well as some of the aggressiveness that many have become used to out of Ravens' defenses. Both of those things (and more) have led to plenty of success for Baltimore, so based off of his comments Macdonald seems ready to continue using those strategies in his own way while putting his own twist on them."
*Brandon Stephens Could Flourish Under Macdonald *
It was discussed in Late for Work earlier this week that outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Tyus Bowser will likely benefit from playing under Macdonald's tutelage. Yesterday, our Garrett Downing contended that Macdonald can help inside linebacker Patrick Queen become a Pro Bowler.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jonas Shaffer said that in addition to those three, defensive back Brandon Stephens also could flourish under Macdonald.
Shaffer noted that as defensive coordinator at Michigan this past season, Macdonald used defensive back Daxton Hill (the younger brother of running back Justice Hill) in a variety of ways, and he could find a similar role for Stephens, who emerged as one of the Ravens' top defenders over the final month of his rookie season.
"Stephens, a gifted athlete himself, played mostly as a deep safety last season," Shaffer wrote. "But Martindale moved him around like a chess piece, from box safety (90 snaps in pass defense, according to SIS) to slot cornerback (75) to outside cornerback (11). Under Macdonald, Stephens could prove too good to keep tethered to any one position."
Pro Bowl Will Feature 'Spot and Choose' Method Instead of Kickoffs
The "spot and choose" method for overtime that the Ravens proposed to the Competition Committee in March will be used in lieu of kickoffs for the entirety of Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
The winner of the opening coin toss will have the option of spotting the ball anywhere on the field while designating direction, or choosing whether to start on offense or defense from the designated spot.
Regardless of which privilege is chosen, the team determining the spot must announce the starting field position before the other team can decide whether to play offense or defense. The loser of the toss will have first choice between the two privileges to begin the second half.
The ending to the AFC divisional playoff game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills on Jan. 23 — which saw the Chiefs win the coin toss and score the game-winning touchdown and the Bills offense never getting an opportunity — reignited the debate about the NFL's overtime rules and brought the Ravens' "spot and choose" overtime proposal back into the discussion.
Head Coach John Harbaugh commented on the Pro Bowl adopting the "spot and choose" method during his press conference on Monday.
"I had to get that through the back door,"
Harbaugh said jokingly. "Someone kind of leaked that to me out of the league office, which is appreciated. So, I don't know if they really care what I think, but the idea is a great idea, and we'll see."