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Ravens film study: Everyone wants a player like 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, but Devin Duvernay’s not there yet



Ravens film study: Everyone wants a player like 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, but Devin Duvernay’s not there yet

In early December, during his weekly Thursday news conference, Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman introduced what he called “the vault,” a highly classified repository of exotic plays for second-year wide receiver (and maybe running back) Devin Duvernay. Three days later, Roman opened it. Kind of.

In a 20-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Duvernay ran short, intermediate and deep routes. On one presnap motion, he took an outside handoff around the corner. On another, he was used as a misdirect before an inside handoff. On others, he was the designated run fake on play-action drop-backs. Duvernay hadn’t quite become Deebo Samuel, the San Francisco 49ers’ marauding hybrid wide receiver, or Cordarrelle Patterson, the Atlanta Falcons’ unlikely wide receiver turned running back, but he was more of a chess piece in Week 13 than he’d ever been.

And the results were … fine. Duvernay had two catches on three targets for 21 yards. His one carry, an 8-yard run for a first down, was wiped out by an illegal-shift penalty. One fake handoff to Duvernay on a “jet” motion play — nearly full-speed motion across the formation — led to an 18-yard carry for running back Devonta Freeman. Other presnap movements opened up throwing lanes for quarterback Lamar Jackson, who sometimes capitalized and other times did not or could not. The offense finished with 326 total yards in the defeat, its fourth fewest all season.

As the Ravens watch the NFL playoffs from home, Duvernay’s role has become a flashpoint in the simmering offseason debates over Roman’s offense. In leading the 49ers to Sunday’s NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, Samuel has inspired wonder and envy. Now every fan base wants a Deebo. Especially in Baltimore. Especially with Duvernay.

“I think anytime people kind of approach some uncharted territory, it kind of opens people’s minds,” 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel told reporters two weeks ago. “But if you’ve watched any of the draft coverage the last couple of years, people have been trying to find the next Deebo. The problem is, there’s one Deebo. And maybe that opportunity will open it up for other guys with his skill sets. But he’s a rare, rare player.”

In his breakthrough third season, Samuel became the first player in the NFL’s modern era to record at least 1,300 receiving yards and 300 rushing yards. He also became the first player since the league’s 1970 merger to lead his team in receiving yards (1,405, fifth in the NFL), receiving touchdowns (six) and rushing touchdowns (eight). He lines up as a wide receiver and a running back and jokingly calls himself a “wide back.” There’s no one quite like him.

As a draft prospect, though, Duvernay seemed like a reasonable approximation. In 2018, during his final season at South Carolina, Samuel had 62 catches for 882 yards, averaged 9.7 yards after the catch and led all Southeastern Conference receivers with 19 broken tackles after the catch, according to Sports info Solutions. A year later, in Duvernay’s last year at Texas, he had 106 catches for 1,386 yards, averaged 6.9 yards after the catch and led all Big 12 Conference receivers with 17 broken tackles after the catch.

At the scouting combine, Samuel measured in at 5 feet 11, 214 pounds, with a 4.48-second 40-yard dash. The 49ers took him in the second round, No. 36 overall. Duvernay was slightly shorter (5-10), considerably thinner (200 pounds) and definitely faster over 40 yards (4.39 seconds). The Ravens took him in the third round, No. 92 overall. Afterward, general manager Eric DeCosta said Duvernay is “almost like a running back with the football.”

What’s separated Samuel from Duvernay and every other NFL receiver he’s been compared to, though, is also what distinguished him at South Carolina: He is not easily tackled. In 2018, Samuel forced a broken or missed tackle on an incredible 45.2% of his catches for the Gamecocks, according to SIS. Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore, one of the sport’s most elusive players that season, finished with a 35.1% rate. Duvernay, in 2019, was at 24.8%.

Samuel’s make-you-miss skill set, a unique package of power and acceleration, has translated in his three years in San Francisco. He broke 14 tackles and forced 10 missed tackles on 57 catches (42.1% overall) as a rookie in 2019. In an injury-shortened 2020, he had a combined 12 failed tackles on 33 catches (36.4%).

This regular season, Samuel broke 11 tackles and forced eight missed tackles on his 77 catches (24.7%). Even more remarkably, in his first year of extensive action at running back, where the 49ers have been hit hard by injury, he had 11 broken tackles and seven missed tackles on 59 carries (30.5%). Bolstered by Kyle Shanahan’s innovating coaching staff and one of the NFL’s top offensive lines, Samuel earned first-team All-Pro honors at wide receiver.

Duvernay has been easier to pin down. In Texas’ screen-heavy offense, he could dust defenders or power through them on catch-and-runs. In the Ravens’ more vertical passing attack, he’s seen fewer schemed-up touches and struggled to elude defenders when given the chance. As a rookie, Duvernay broke one tackle over his 20 catches and forced one missed tackle on his four carries. This season, he broke two tackles and forced two missed tackles on 33 catches. On his seven carries, he broke one tackle. Overall, Duvernay’s forced a failed tackle on 10.9% of his career offensive touches in Baltimore.

Considering Duvernay’s other athletic gifts, that hasn’t been enough to curb his playing time on offense (51% participation in 2021). Nor has it limited his impact on the Ravens’ special teams, where he earned first-team All-Pro honors this month after leading the NFL in punt return average (13.8 yards). Even as a runner, Duvernay finished the season with 7.1 yards per carry.

“Whatever I can to help the team win, get some yards, first downs,” Duvernay said in October. “The coaches believe in me. So if they keep giving me the ball, I’m going to keep doing what I can with it.”

It was his lack of touches, however, that frustrated fans. They wanted regular trips to Roman’s vault. With running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill sidelined by season-ending injuries, the Ravens struggled to stress run defenses horizontally, as they had so often in 2019 and 2020. Freeman showed quickness but not edge-bending speed. Latavius Murray was better suited for between-the-tackles running. Ty’Son Williams’ role shriveled after a promising start.

Duvernay, maybe the Ravens’ fastest player, never lined up in the backfield for a carry, as Samuel did with San Francisco, as Moore did with the Arizona Cardinals, and as Laviska Shenault did with the Jacksonville Jaguars, among others. Duvernay split his time between the slot, the outside and in motion. His seven rushing attempts were limited to end-arounds and jet sweeps, according to SIS.

Circumstances sometimes dictated their effectiveness. Duvernay’s five jet motion carries — behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Chase Claypool (seven) for the most NFL among receivers — were, unsurprisingly, more productive when Jackson was on the field. From Week 6 to Week 12, Duvernay averaged 14.3 yards per carry on his first three jet motion handoffs. In Week 17 and Week 18, he ran for 4 yards and 2 yards, respectively — both snaps with the less dynamic Tyler Huntley at quarterback.

Despite a lack of size out wide, the Ravens engineered quick hitters for Duvernay in their passing game, too. He had five catches for 31 yards on screen plays, behind only Marquise “Hollywood” Brown (12 catches for 64 yards) in targets among Ravens receivers. Duvernay added four catches for 12 yards on jet motion touch passes; the New York Jets’ Elijah Moore led the NFL with seven such receptions for 15 yards.

With Dobbins, Edwards and Jackson again set for prominent roles in the Ravens’ 2022 ground game, it’s unclear how Duvernay’s role might change. In 2019 and 2020, the team had the NFL’s most and third-most efficient rushing offenses, respectively, according to Football Outsiders. This year, the Ravens fell to No. 11. If their success is predicated on getting their most talented runners into the most advantageous scenarios possible, Duvernay is unlikely to get a Samuel-esque amount of opportunities next season.

What Roman, Jackson and the Ravens need most from Duvernay is greater efficiency as a receiver — or at least more production. According to SIS, Samuel averaged 0.38 expected points added per target this year, among the highest rates in the NFL. Duvernay managed a solid 0.13 EPA per target, which accounts for play-by-play impact on games. He also finished with fewer total receiving yards (272) than Samuel had on just dig routes this season (352). In nine of his 16 games, Duvernay finished with fewer than 20 receiving yards.

His next season could be telling. It will be Duvernay’s second year working with wide receivers coach Tee Martin and pass game specialist Keith Williams. It will also be his third with Jackson, who this fall helped spur breakout seasons from tight end Mark Andrews and Brown, two talented targets who’d spent two-plus years learning their quarterback’s tendencies.

Duvernay won’t have to reach those heights in 2022 for the Ravens to value his contributions; he’s already one of the NFL’s top special teams weapons. But a step forward out wide could help unlock his potential elsewhere. At his December news conference, Roman said the Ravens had “tons of stuff” for Duvernay in their playbook. It was just a matter, he explained, of “whether we choose to unlock the vault.”


Magic looking for luck to turn their way in NBA’s draft lottery



Magic looking for luck to turn their way in NBA’s draft lottery

The Orlando Magic know as well as any other team the luck and misfortune that can come with the NBA’s draft lottery.

They’re hoping luck will turn their way for the first time in over a decade during Tuesday’s 38th installment of the lottery. The lottery will start at 8 p.m. in Chicago and will be broadcast on ESPN.

The Magic were on the receiving end of a lot of luck in their infancy, winning back-to-back No. 1 picks in 1992 and ‘93 — selections that led to Orlando drafting Shaquille O’Neal and acquiring Penny Hardaway, the linchpins of the Magic’s early success in the mid-90s.

The Magic later won the ‘04 lottery, leading to the drafting of Dwight Howard, the backbone of six consecutive playoffs appearances, including the 2009 Finals.

Since then, the Magic have either stayed at or fallen from their pre-lottery positioning.

While it isn’t known if this year’s draft class will have the kind of franchise-changing prospects that could propel the Magic to similar success they’ve experienced in previous decades, better positioning in the lottery — or even winning it — would help set them up for greater success after finishing the 2021-22 season with their worst record since 2012-13.

“Our goals remain the same, which are to develop these young guys,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during an interview on FM 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike with the Orlando Sentinel’s Mike Bianchi. “Everybody says you need stars in this league. Sometimes stars don’t always reveal themselves instantly.

“There are still evaluations to be made. There are still a lot of improvements that our guys have to make and that’s going to take a lot of work. And it’s going to take time. I don’t really think we recalibrate our goals going into the season. We ramp them up, we challenge our guys to get better, and from a team-building standpoint, obviously, we’ll look to add more. We’ll [soon] find out in about a month where we sit in the lottery and it’ll be an exciting offseason.”

Here are three things to know ahead of Tuesday:

Magic’s lottery odds

The Magic are tied for the best odds (14%) of winning the No. 1 pick in the draft.

With the league’s second-worst record at 22-60, Orlando has a 52.1% chance of securing a top-four pick in the June 23 draft. The pick won’t fall below No. 6.

The Magic’s odds for landing in spots No. 1-6: No. 1: 14.0%; No. 2: 13.4%; No. 3: 12.7%; No. 4: 12%; No. 5: 27.8%; No. 6: 20%.

How they’ve fared in the past

After early success with the lottery, the Magic haven’t had success moving up the draft order in their last nine tries. Here’s Orlando’s history with the lottery:

2021 — 5th (3rd in pre-lottery positioning); 2018 — 6th (6th); 2017 — 6th (5th); 2016 — 11th (11th); 2015 — 5th (5th); 2014 — 4th (3rd); 2013 — 2nd (1st); 2006 — 11th (11th); 2005 — 11th (11th); 2004 — 1st (1st); 2000 — 5th (3rd); 1998 — 12th (12th); 1993 — 1st (11th); 1992 — 1st (2nd); 1991 — 10th (10th); 1990 — 3rd (4th).

Lottery format

Drawings are done to determine the draft’s first four picks. The remainder of the lottery teams will get draft picks in spots 5 through 14 in the inverse order of their regular-season records.

Under the format that started with the 2019 draft, the team with the worst record (Houston Rockets) will receive no worse than the fifth pick.

The Magic, along with the Rockets and the Detroit Pistons — the team’s with the three-worst records — all have a 14% chance of winning the lottery under the current format.

During the previous format, the team with the worst record had a 25% of getting the No. 1 pick.


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Candidate in hospital, others scrambling before Pa. primary



Candidate in hospital, others scrambling before Pa. primary


SCRANTON, Pa. (AP) — The last full day of campaigning in Pennsylvania’s hotly contested primaries for governor and U.S. Senate began Monday with a top Senate candidate in the hospital and establishment Republicans trying to stave off victories by candidates they worry will be unelectable in the fall.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is leading in polls and fundraising in the Democratic Party’s primary for U.S. Senate, remained in the hospital Monday after suffering a stroke right before the weekend.

His campaign said he won’t appear at Tuesday’s election night party in Pittsburgh, though Fetterman said Sunday that he is feeling better, expected to make a full recovery and will resume campaigning after getting some rest.

Meanwhile, new attack ads are airing against late-surging Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kathy Barnette as many in the Republican Party establishment have begun trying to consolidate their support to prevent Doug Mastriano from winning the party’s gubernatorial nomination in the presidential battleground state.

Some Republicans fear Barnette and Mastriano are too polarizing to beat Democratic opponents in a general election. Barnette and Mastriano have campaigned together, endorsed each other and promoted conspiracy theories, including former President Donald Trump’s lies that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.

They also have spent a fraction of the money that some of their rivals have.

The scrambling reflects the high stakes of Tuesday’s elections in Pennsylvania and the uncertainty that has rattled the campaigns in the last week amid news of Fetterman’s hospitalization and last-minute jockeying in the Republican primaries.

In the governor’s race, an organization that has reported spending about $13 million to boost Republican candidate Bill McSwain, a lawyer who was Donald Trump’s appointee for U.S. attorney in Philadelphia, switched its allegiance to former congressman Lou Barletta barely two days before polls close.

Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, a business advocacy group whose political action committees are conduits for cash from billionaire Jeffrey Yass, said it believes Barletta has the best chance to beat Mastriano. The group is now calling on McSwain to drop out and endorse Barletta.

Mastriano, newly endorsed by Trump, belittled efforts by Republicans to defeat him and characterizes Democrats, including President Joe Biden, as far-left radicals.

“The swamp struck back, but they struck and they failed, they missed, and Donald Trump came in in the midst of their conspiring with each other’s swamp-like creatures and endorsed me and cut the legs out from underneath them,” Mastriano said in an interview Monday with the Light of Liberty podcast.

Meanwhile, in the hard-fought Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Barnette worked to fend off growing attacks from former hedge fund CEO David McCormick and heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity Mehmet Oz, Trump’s endorsed candidate.

Barnette said on conservative Breitbart Radio on Monday that “I’m not a globalist, both of them are” and that they have “very strong ties to the World Economic Forum,” an organization that has been the subject of right-wing conspiracy theories.

They are pretending to be “Trump card-carrying members of the patriot party,” she said, and she called Oz — he was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Turkey and holds dual citizenship — “not only an American, but Turkish as well.”

“Globalist” is a derogatory term with an antisemitic origin adopted by Trump and others in his orbit to conjure up an elite, international coterie that doesn’t serve America’s best interests.

Barnette also suggested on Breitbart Radio that she would not support Oz or McCormick if they win the primary, saying, “I have no intentions of supporting globalists.”

However, she later seemed to contradict herself, telling reporters in Scranton: “I do believe they are globalists, and I find that very unnerving. But … I will do everything I can for the GOP in order to make sure we win, and make sure Democrats do not win.”

Trump’s endorsements of both Mastriano and Oz have twisted Pennsylvania’s Republican establishment into contradictions, as some warn that Mastriano is too far to the right to beat Democrat Josh Shapiro in the fall general election.

Trump himself has warned that Barnette cannot win in the fall — yet Mastriano is campaigning with her. In a telephone townhall Monday night with Oz, Trump warned that when Barnette is “vetted, it’s going to be a catastrophe for the party.”

With polls showing a late surge for Barnette, Trump’s attacks reflected an eleventh-hour behind-the-scenes scramble by Trump allies and rival campaigns to discredit her. If elected, she would be the first Black Republican woman to serve in the Senate.

On Monday, the Oz campaign sent out a 90-second robocall to Republican voters featuring Trump urging them to vote for Oz and attacking McCormick and Barnette as “not candidates who put America First,” Trump’s label for his governing philosophy.

In addition to new attack ads targeting Barnette, she is being asked about a history of incendiary comments, which include disparaging Muslims and gays. She said her Islamophobic tweets were taken out of context.

She is also being asked whether she was involved in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol after participating in Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally that day. She was not, she said.

“It’s confusing to understand Kathy Barnette. Every time she answers a question, she raises many more,” Oz said on the “Brian Kilmeade Show” on Fox News Radio.

Barnette, speaking to several dozen supporters at a Scranton hotel Monday evening, said her rivals are lying about her because she is winning.

“Do you really want to hear more smear attacks, more attacks, throwing people under the bus, using leftist-like tactics to try to destroy one of their own?” Barnette questioned.

McCormick, a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who has strong connections to the party establishment going back to his service in President George W. Bush’s administration, has also been criticized repeatedly by Trump in the last two weeks.

Nevertheless, McCormick is closing the campaign by airing a TV ad showing a video clip of Trump in a private 2020 ceremony congratulating McCormick, saying “you’ve served our country well in so many different ways.”

“You know why he said that,” McCormick says in the TV ad. “Because it’s true. I risked my life for America and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. … I’m a pro-life, pro-gun, America First conservative and damn proud of it.”


Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at and on Twitter at


Levy reported from Harrisburg, Pa. Follow Marc Levy on Twitter at

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Gophers make top four schools for prized recruit Jaxon Howard



Gophers make top four schools for prized recruit Jaxon Howard

The Gophers football program made the top four options for prized in-state recruit Jaxon Howard on Monday.

The four-star prospect from Robbinsdale Cooper High School put Minnesota alongside Miami (Fla.), Louisiana State and Michigan. He plans to take official visits in June and make a decision in July.

“The past three years, I’ve been blessed to be offered by over 60 amazing colleges,” Howard wrote on social media. “I built genuine relationships with so many coaches and value all the time they have spent with me. After 41 unofficial visits and much prayer, I have narrowed my top four.”

RELATED: How Gophers are making case for Jaxon Howard’s commitment 

If Howard, the No. 1 recruit in the state of Minnesota, committed to Minnesota, he would be the second-highest rated pledge, behind only Minneapolis Washburn running back Jeff Jones, per’s composite rankings.

Howard, who could play tight end or defensive end in college, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds; he is the son of Willie Howard, who played defensive end at Stanford and was drafted in the second round by the Vikings in 2001.

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