In April, the Ravens made a shocking move on the first night of the NFL draft when they traded receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown to the Arizona Cardinals. And instead of drafting another wideout, the Ravens selected two tight ends — Charlie Kolar and Isaiah Likely — in the fourth round, indicating that Baltimore would run a tight end-heavy offense in 2022.
In the Ravens’ 24-9 season-opening win over the New York Jets on Sunday, it didn’t take long for the wide receivers to show they’re more than capable of delivering for star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Devin Duvernay had a career afternoon, catching four passes for a career-high 54 yards and two touchdowns, while second-year wideout Rashod Bateman corralled a 55-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter that might have been thrown to Brown a year ago.
In the months leading up to Baltimore’s dominant victory at MetLife Stadium, the Ravens expressed confidence in their wide receivers. They didn’t make a splashy move in the trade market or free agency except for signing veteran Demarcus Robinson, who was surprisingly cut by the Las Vegas Raiders during training camp last month.
“The guys do have a chip on their shoulder, and they want to go out and prove that they’re ready for their opportunity,” wide receivers coach Tee Martin said in June. “And when we don’t draft a wide receiver, what the organization is saying to you is, ‘We brought you here for a reason, and it’s your time.’”
The receivers’ time came Sunday, and they answered the call. After the Jets’ defense kept Jackson and the Ravens out of sync for most of the first half, limiting tight ends Mark Andrews and Likely and holding Baltimore to just 11 rushing yards, Duvernay helped jump-start the offense. With Baltimore facing a third-and-5 with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter, Jackson threw a perfect spiral to Duvernay, who was tightly covered by cornerback Bryce Hall, for a 25-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone.
As Jackson went on an offensive tear in the second half, throwing for 130 of his 213 yards, he once again found Duvernay for a score. On third down, Jackson stepped up in the pocket before completing a 17-yard touchdown pass to Duvernay to give Baltimore a 17-3 advantage with under eight minutes left in the third quarter.
Jackson appeared to complete a no-look pass for the touchdown, but the quarterback said after the game he wasn’t trying to make a highlight-reel play in the style of Kansas City Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes. “I’m not playing street ball; I’m looking,” he joked. “I was going to throw it to [tight end] Mark [Andrews], but the safety jumped Mark, and [Duvernay] just ran his route, and he came open.”
Last year, Duvernay showcased what he can do on special teams, being named to his first Pro Bowl as a returner. On Sunday, Duvernay, who totaled 272 receiving yards and two touchdowns last season, showcased what he could do in the passing game.
“It felt good to get into game mode and show the work I’ve put in this offseason,” said Duvernay, a third-round pick in 2020.
Harbaugh said he was not surprised about Duvernay’s performance, adding: “He works so hard; he’s been doing it in camp every single day.”
But no play was more spectacular than Jackson’s touchdown pass to Bateman in the third quarter that solidified Baltimore’s first win of the season. With 2:15 to go, Jackson launched the ball deep down the middle of the field as Bateman slipped past the Jets’ secondary for a 55-yard touchdown reception that gave the Ravens a commanding 24-3 advantage.
“A lot of people said [Jackson] couldn’t throw, but he dropped a dime for me,” said Bateman, a 2021 first-round pick who totaled two catches for 59 yards.
Added Harbaugh: “[The Jets] were bringing people down [into the box] a little bit, and they were doing a good job against the run, and we got them one time. He ran a great route, and the protection held up.”
With questions surrounding the receivers during the offseason, Jackson said Sunday’s win was a confidence boost. Still, there’s more to prove.
“We just have to keep going,” Jackson said. “This is the first game; we have 16 more games to go, and [the] playoffs.”
Sunday, 1 p.m.
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