At Thursday’s press conference, Baltimore Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman was asked about second-year standout wide receiver Devin Duvernay’s role in the offense.
Asked about potentially using Devin Duvernay more in backfield, Greg Roman said, “We have ton of stuff sitting in the vault. It’s a long season. I like to space things out.”— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiec) December 2, 2021
According to Sports Info Solutions, Duvernay has seen three jet sweep carries, three jet sweep receptions and six screens through 12 games. Last year, Duvernay had two jet sweep carries, four jet sweep receptions and was targeted on 10 screens. He leads the Ravens in usage on such plays over the last two years. While usage on those could certainly be increased with efficiency, the Ravens run game is lacking in several areas where Duvernay could return dynamic ability on one of the concepts that the Ravens used to run for over 6,000 combines yards in the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
With running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards placed on season-ending injured reserve, the Ravens have struggled to replace their production in generating explosive carries. In 2020, Dobbins and Edwards combined for 22 rushes that gained at least 15 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. They ranked No. 5 and No. 8 among all running backs in number of carries respectively, while Dobbins ranked No. 2 and Edwards No. 10 in terms of percentage of carries that resulted in a 15+ yard gain. Those rushes gained 596 yards on those 22 carries, averaging 27 yards a carry. The services of the Ravens dynamic duo, Dobbins and Edwards are sorely missed.
This year? Ravens running backs have only generated six total runs of 15 yards or more yards. DeVonta Freeman has generated three and Ty’Son WIlliams accounts for the other three.
The Ravens have chosen to not give Williams substantial touches or snaps, as Williams has only seen snaps on special teams in three contests. Running backs Justice Hill and Edwards earned offensive snaps through quality special teams play, which indicated effort in practice. Even last week, linebacker Kristian Welch found himself taking key defensive snaps due to strong special teams play.
The Ravens are firm believers in effort. If they don’t trust a player to give effort on special teams in practice, they don’t trust players with the ball in their hands in games. While this is speculative, it appears Williams has fallen into that situation and there have been no signs of him emerging from it.
This is where the Ravens could use Duvernay to force defenses to respect another runner aside from Lamar Jackson, who hasn’t had a carry of 15 yards since Week 7. One concept that could pay dividends is the Ravens GT bash, also known as counter trey bash, which has been their most lethal rushing concept over the last few years.
here's lamar jackson backdooring a counter bash play pic.twitter.com/LbwJ2OQeVx— Steven Ruiz (@theStevenRuiz) May 26, 2021
'Scheming with Scho' Episode 12 with @MarkSchofield!— The Scouting Academy (@TheScoutAcademy) January 8, 2021
This week, Mark takes a look at the Ravens' use of Counter Bash and how it allows Lamar Jackson to punish defenses no matter what they try to stop him pic.twitter.com/CATjyRUnWj
Raven Counter Trey Bash. It's a read scheme where the QB and back swap roles. Back aligns opposite the read key and goes away from the flow. If backside read key goes inside the ball is handed off. Here he stayed wide so Lamar Jackson kept it on the counter run. pic.twitter.com/S9RKbmODXS— XandOJunkie (@Spread_it_Out) September 29, 2020
It may be the single most effective rushing play for any NFL runner over the last decade. Paired with veers, where the running back follows the pullers and the quarterback can pull the ball away from the flow, the Ravens have had incredible success with it. The current issue is that neither Latavius Murray nor Freeman possess the explosive speed to force defenses to respect the backside of the concept.
Baltimore’s offensive line struggled mightily to block up this concept at times last year, even though it makes life quite easy considering blockers typically have a numbers advantage and defenders get caught flat footed trying to find the ball. The Ravens started adding a wrinkle to the play, where Dobbins would align in the slot then jet motion through the mesh point of the handoff. This gave Dobbins a head start to the edge where defenders would be put into desperation in an attempt to corral the explosive runner.
Ravens 20 packages with Edwards and Dobbins reared their head in this one. Titans were unprepared. Edwards making the block in space.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) January 5, 2021
I’d expect the Titans to have some shifts when Dobbins is out wide and edwards is in the backfield, but I don’t see them stopping the jet bash pic.twitter.com/M9qj4ZPB3o
2-11 bash— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) January 12, 2021
Dobbins just straight LOSING Rashaan Evans one on one... pic.twitter.com/x7bkvvk8hr
Again, the jet motion bash options are putting incredible athletes like JK Dobbins and Devin Duvnernay one on one with a head start, in space, while giving Lamar Jackson two lead blockers and room to start.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) December 28, 2020
Lethal right now. Need to keep expanding and adding wrinkles. pic.twitter.com/ArB4PteEiT
This is where Duvernay can be utilized. Duvernay is already utilized in motion frequently and has the timing aspects down. He’s had four carries so far this season for 40 yards, with three gaining 10+ yards. The one aspect that requires extra reps in practice would be the mesh point handoff exchange. Jackson’s ability to hold the ball long enough to force his read to commit to the back or stay with him is one of his greatest abilities in the run game. This requires precision and patience, as well as practice. One or two botched exchanges in practice can dissipate the desire of a play-caller to entrust this situation in a game.
Another more simple concept that the Ravens could utilize Duvernay on would be speed options. The Ravens have attempted several this season, with limited success. Again, Freeman and Murray simply lack the explosiveness to force read defenders to make early decisions.
AHHHHHHH so now I get it. Speed option is a NICE check here.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) November 16, 2021
Freeman seemed lost. Didn’t know the call at first? He needed to SPRINT laterally and create more distance, force the defender to make a clear decision. Didn’t. Defender recovered. pic.twitter.com/V3MfS89wbd
The Ravens could also start toying with Duvernay in motion, using “boomerang” or “return” motions, like they’ve used with wide receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and the Kansas City Chiefs use with wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Duvernay isn’t quite as twitchy of a lateral mover as the aforementioned speedsters, but his decisive speed and larger stature can still be effective.
Play calling, not “concepts” or “scheme” is what has limited the Ravens passing offense at times.— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) March 30, 2021
In this Titans game, we saw simple, efficient uses of motion and space to get Hollywood Brown the ball. It forced the Titans to move laterally and opened the middle of the field. pic.twitter.com/3xAFabjSsW
The Twitter-sphere has rumbled about the Ravens using Duvernay similarly to how the San Francisco 49ers use wide receiver Deebo Samuel as a runner. Samuel, who is a little larger and more powerful but not quite as fast as Duvernay, is the third player in NFL history to account for 1,000 yards receiving, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns. He’s accomplished that through 11 games.
Football Outsider’s Derrik Klassen wrote how the 49ers have accomplished such success with Samuel in their perimeter run game.
As winter continues rolling in, the Ravens need to spice up their run game as wind and cold can stagnate the pass game. All in all, the Ravens would be wise to roll Duvernay out in the run game down the stretch, particularly in rematches against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals, or saving them for the Green Bay Packers and Los Angeles Rams when they travel to chilly Baltimore in December and January.