clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Ravens have “a vault of stuff” for the offense, including Devin Duvernay being utilized in the backfield

Greg Roman was asked about the second year standout’s involvement in the offense and referenced the possibility.

Baltimore Ravens v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.