Among the many great things about the NFL is how quickly new stars replace the old. In an attempt to keep up with the constantly changing league, we here at PFN will award a weekly breakthrough player of the week. First up? Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Devin Duvernay, who delivered in his first opportunity as a WR2.
Devin Duvernay is PFN’s Breakthrough Player of Week 1
Monday is Duvernay’s birthday, and he did plenty of celebrating on the field in the Ravens’ 24-9 win on his last day as a 24-year-old.
He caught four passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns — doubling his career total in that latter stat.
Duvernay’s first touchdown came with just under four minutes left in the first half. With the Ravens facing third-and-5 at the 25, offensive coordinator Greg Roman dialed up a go-route for his sub-4.4 wideout. Duvernay got behind Bryce Hall, and by the time safety Lamarcus Joyner identified the play, it was too late.
“I ran a go, just tried to go up and make a play,” Duvernay said. “We’ve been doing it all camp. It was good to come and make the play in a game.”
Then midway through the third quarter, Duvernay shook free again for a score. Safety Jordan Whitehead had no chance tailing Duvernay on a crossing route, surrendering the 17-yard touchdown on third-and-10. Credit Lamar Jackson for stepping up in a collapsing pocket and locating the open receiver.
“What a game,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said in the postgame news conference. “He came up with plays when we needed plays made, and he made them. That’s what you hope for, and we knew it was going to happen.”
Even with Duvernay’s enhanced role on offense in 2022, the Ravens still plan on using Duverney on special teams — which is smart, considering he was an all-pro returner a year ago. Duvernay had a relatively quiet game in the return game Sunday, averaging 8.5 yards per punt return.
Who is Devin Duvernay?
Duvernay, at 5-11, 210 pounds, needs to win his matchups the way he won Sunday — with speed and precision.
It’s been his game since his days at Sachse (Texas) High School. He comes from elite stock. His twin brother, Donovan, was also a collegiate football player. Devin Duvernay’s cousin is Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
Duvernay, the No. 8 wide receiver of his recruiting class, was on track to attend Baylor after a marvelous high school career but switched his commitment to the University of Texas after the Bears moved on from Art Briles.
After a relatively quiet first three years in Austin, Duvernay exploded as a senior, ranking third nationally in catches (106).
He ran well in the pre-draft process and did enough for the Ravens to take him in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was the 16th wide receiver taken in what’s shaping up to be an excellent class at the position.
Duvernay joined a Ravens roster deep at receiver. As a result, he was targeted just 73 times in his first two seasons (53-473-2). In 2021, Duvernay was WR4 behind Marquise Brown (now with the Cardinals), Rashod Bateman (2-55-1 Sunday), and Sammy Watkins (now with Packers).
But opportunity now knocks, and so far, he’s answered.
“Not surprised,” Harbaugh said of Duvernay’s performance Sunday. “This guy, he’s done so many things for us that really doesn’t always show up in the stat book, but he’s made big plays for us in the past. He works so hard; he’s been doing it in camp every single day. So, I don’t think any of the players are surprised, [nor the] coaches, we’re just happy to see it happen in a game.”
Duvernay’s outlook for rest of 2022 season
Mark Andrews will always be Lamar Jackson’s top target. And the expectation is Bateman will be more involved than he was Sunday.
But with just James Proche II, Demarcus Robinson, and Tylan Wallace behind him, the path is cleared for Duvernay to have a very large role for a team poised to make a playoff run.
“We don’t really listen to what the critics say,” Duvernay added. “We all know what we can do. We all know our abilities, our athleticism, our speed. We know what we’re capable of. We just focus on proving ourselves right, not really proving the critics wrong.”
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