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Ravens X-Factor: Devin Duvernay can make a difference against the Raiders

Baltimore Ravens Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Ravens gameplan for their Week 1 matchup in Las Vegas is relatively straightforward. Limiting Darren Waller and neutralizing Henry Ruggs, while probing the Raiders remodeled blocking unit, are the defensive priorities. Baltimore’s clock controlling offense will aim to matriculate the ball down the field against the NFL’s fifth least efficient rush defense in 2020.

To prevent new Raiders coordinator Gus Bradley from stacking nine defenders in the box, Baltimore must utilize their playmakers to stretch the field horizontally and vertically. Second-year receiver Devin Duvernay should have a chance to showcase his speed and elusiveness on offense as he rotates with Marquise Brown and Sammy Watkins during Rashod Bateman’s absence. Coordinator Greg Roman can manufacture touches for the gadget receiver with bubble screens and dial up a couple deep shots to the sub-4.4 second speedster. Duvernay could also receive a few carries on end arounds or option style runs as Baltimore searches to replace J.K. Dobbins production. He managed a 17.5 yards per rush on four attempts last season.

Duvernay remains a dangerous kickoff and punt returner. His 27.5 yard kickoff return average, including the 93-yard touchdown against the Chiefs in Week 3, was eight best among primary returners last season. Conversely, the Raiders special teams coverage units were mediocre in 2020. Baltimore’s unrivaled emphasis on special teams, coupled with players re-acclimating to live contact, might allow Duvernay to break off a long return during Monday night’s primetime tilt.

Quarterback heroics, trench battles and marquee performers often determine the outcome of NFL contests. Still, the under-the-radar Duverney should have an opportunity to provide a spark that ignites the Ravens in front of a presumably lively Las Vegas crowd. And supply Baltimore with some momentum heading into their Week 2 home opener, an AFC showdown with Kansas City.