The Baltimore Ravens traveled to the Mile High City on Sunday and handed the previously undefeated Denver Broncos their first loss of the season in commanding fashion. Quarterback Lamar Jackson, wide receiver Marquise Brown and outside linebacker Odafe Oweh shined bright with their standout performances. This article highlights the players whose performances flew under the radar on Sunday afternoon, the unsung heroes.
WR James Proche
The second-year wide receiver saw his most extensive action against the Broncos and he didn’t disappoint. He had a career day, finishing second on the team in receiving yards and tied for the team lead in receptions with 5 catches for 74 yards on 6 targets.
What was more impressive than pure production itself was how he went about getting it. Proche consistently got open, made great adjustments to make a couple of those catches, and in instances where he caught the ball short of the line to gain, he lowered his head and powered his way for a first down. Four of his five receptions on the day moved the chains in key situations and resulted in a new set of downs for the Ravens’ offense.
Vet play here from James Proche. He was wide open from the snap on this play. Some players may just run to the open field. He still ran his route and cut the crossing corner off like the play was designed. Lamar hits him right when he was supposed to. pic.twitter.com/6xrjlgdj7Z— Dale (@DaleFromDaFlock) October 4, 2021
The 2020 sixth-round pick has seen a sharp uptick in not only his snap count but his overall involvement on offense the past two weeks. His average depth of target on Sunday was 12.33 yards down the field. He has clearly earned the trust of Jackson as of late. It’ll be curious to see if his role will continue to grow, stay the same, or be reduced once 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman returns to action. Nevertheless, Proche has proved that he’s more than just a training camp star that fails to translate that success into the regular season.
S Chuck Clark
The veteran safety has become a mainstay on this list for the simple fact that he does not get the praise he is well deserved for his consistently outstanding play each week. The lack of national spotlight being shown in his direction is likely a direct correlation to his lack of the splashy plays that defensive backs receive greater recognition for, such as interceptions and forced fumbles. However, he is the third highest-graded player at his position according to PFF with an overall of 76.3 through the first four games of the season.
Despite his lack of accolades, Clark continued to prove why he is such a valued member of the Ravens defense against the Broncos. He was a big reason why the Ravens defense turned things around in the second quarter after the Broncos scored the first points of the game and was key to the unit pitching a shutout in the second half.
Clark never came off the field, playing 100 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, and even logged four on special teams. He finished second on the team in total tackles with seven, tied for the most solo tackles with six, recorded a tackle behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of one yard, and pressured Teddy Bridgewater into throwing the ball away on a blitz.
With DeShon Elliott out due to a hamstring injury, Clark took it upon himself to assume the role of tone-setter and enforcer on defense. He put it on full display just before halftime when he delivered a vicious hit to Broncos wide receiver Diontae Spencer in the flat after the ball bounced off his hands. The crushing blow wound up knocking the reserve wideout out for the remainder of the game with a concussion.
WR Devin Duvernay
Proche wasn’t the only second-year receiver that has been heating up as of late. The 2020 third-round pick continues to be a big-play threat both as a pass catcher and returner on special teams.
While his average depth of target was just 5.17 yards, he averaged 10.33 yards per catch which speaks to his run after catch ability. He was targeted six times, finished with three receptions for 31 yards, and could’ve scored a touchdown for a third week in a row if Jackson had not overthrown him on a play in the third quarter where he got behind the defense deep down the field.
Duvernay will make the occasional horrendous judgment call to field a punt that ends up setting the Ravens offense up with a disadvantageous field position deep in their own territory. However, he often will more than make up for it with a long return or two a game to give the entire team a spark and set the offense up with a shorter distance to travel.
The Ravens had a pair of drives start from inside their 15-yard line as a result of him making an ill-advised fair catch at the 11 and 4-yard line respectively. One drive ended in a three and out and the other in a touchdown but he redeemed himself just before halftime by ripping off a 42-yard punt return to Broncos’ 26-yard line. They wound up settling for a field goal at the end of the possession but it severed as another reminder of how Duvernay can be a playmaking sparkplug with the ball in his hands.
DB Jimmy Smith
The veteran corner essentially played the role of the third safety with Elliott out and rookie Brandon Stephens making his first career start at free safety. Smith showed off his positional versatility and proved that he can still be a matchup chess piece with man coverage on tight ends and bigger wide receivers.
He played nearly 40 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with a tackle, a nice pass breakup while blanketing tight end Noah Fant to force a punt on Denver’s second drive of the game and looked solid in coverage overall. Smith provides the Ravens’ banged up secondary with experience and depth at both cornerback and safety.