The Ravens knew Devin Duvernay was explosive long before his 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs.
They loved Duvernay's speed when they scouted him at Texas. After the Ravens drafted Duvernay in the third round, Head Coach John Harbaugh reacted with an emphatic fist pump from his couch, knowing Baltimore had added a playmaker to the roster.
Duvernay's breakaway speed can't be coached. According to Next Gen stats, Duvernay reached a top speed of 21.48 miles per hour during his return, which was the second-fastest speed by a ball carrier on a kickoff over the last two seasons and one of the top speeds of any ball carrier this season.
Through three games, Duvernay has played just 24 offensive snaps (13.3 percent) with four catches for 38 yards, but Harbaugh and Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman said this week that a larger role may be forthcoming. As the Ravens prepare for Sunday's game against Washington, Duvernay feels ready for more.
"I think I've had good practices, think I'm up for the challenge, ready to get some shots to take advantage," Duvernay said. "I'm getting better every day. Still not at my peak, still learning and getting the hang of things. Every practice I'm learning new things. It's all coming together."
Harbaugh said Duvernay and rookie wide receiver James Proche II are both progressing well, even though rookies lost organized practice time during the offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic. The rookie wide receivers are motivating each other.
"We always do," Duvernay said. "It's a whole group effort. We're always pushing each other to get better. We're always trying to one-up somebody. That's just the love we have for the game, the drive we have for getting better."
Matthew McConaughey Gives Duvernay a Shoutout
Actor Matthew McConaughey is a huge University of Texas football fan, which means he's big fan of Duvernay.
McConaughey's reacted to Duvernay's touchdown return on Twitter with a bold statement, calling him the steal of the draft.
It's not unusual to see McConaughey on the sideline at Longhorns games, which gave him an opportunity to meet Duvernay.
"I've talked to him a couple of times back in college," Duvernay said. "He was around a lot. We had our fair share of conversations."
D.J. Fluker's Versatility Could Come in Handy
D.J. Fluker did not win the starting job at right guard, where rookie Tyre Phillips has started the first three games. However, Fluker's ability to play both guard and tackle is a reason Baltimore signed him as a free agent.
With All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley listed as questionable for Sunday's game (shoulder) after missing practice both Thursday and Friday, Harbaugh is confident Fluker will respond well if needed.
"He's a guy who's played well," Harbaugh said. "He was a high pick, a first-round pick coming out at tackle. He plays both sides at tackle, plays both guard, veteran player. He's a heck of a football player. He's got a great attitude, he's worked so hard. If he's called upon, he'll be ready to go."
Steelers Game Is Moved, Harbaugh Remains Flexible
Official word came from the NFL on Friday that the Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers matchup at M&T Bank Stadium has been moved from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1 due to the Tennessee Titans' COVID outbreak. Meanwhile, the Ravens' bye week has been moved from Week 8 (Nov. 1) to Week 7 (Oct. 25).
Coaches love to set their practice schedules and travel plans well in advance, but everyone entered this season knowing that changes could take place at any time. The Steelers and Ravens are archrivals, and the outcome of their head-to-head matchups this year could determine who wins the AFC North. Yet, Harbaugh wasn't stressing about the scheduling change when asked about it Friday.
"The need to be flexible, this is the year for that," Harbaugh said. "It's kind of important every year. You just don't worry about it. You go on and play it out however it plays out. I do believe and understand the league has the best interests at heart. Everybody will just do what they have to do."
With a bye in Week 4, the Steelers will have to play 13 straight weeks through the end of the season. When asked about that, Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin told reporters, "We do not care."
Harbaugh said he would take the same approach to having the Ravens' bye week moved.
"We don't care," Harbaugh said, smiling. "I appreciated that quote from Coach Tomlin. I thought that was well put."