Ravens rookies J.K. Dobbins and Devin Duvernay should be two days away from finishing their first preseason in the NFL with a game against the Washington Football Team.
But in 2020, nothing is as it should be.
With the cancellation of the preseason by the NFL, the rookies on the Ravens roster havent been afforded the opportunity to shine during preseason games like in a normal season.
There's already under two weeks left until the teams season opener against the Browns, and just a few days before cutdown day. But while Dobbins and Duvernay arent in danger of being part of roster cuts as the Ravens whittle the team down to 53 players, their roles to start the season are still in question.
I think I am ready to hit the ground running, in college theres no preseason so you kind of roll with things and have scrimmages and such, Duvernay said. I think the coaches have done a great job of preparing us, especially rookies, for the first game since there is no preseason, just making sure were used to the speed of the game, the contact. I think Ill be ready come Week 1.
Duvernay, a wideout at Texas last year, broke out for 106 catches, 1,386 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Hell join a wide receiver depth chart with 2018 first-round pick Marquise Hollywood Brown, 2018 third-round pick Miles Boykin and veteran Willie Snead IV penciled in as key contributors at wide receiver.
James Proche, another rookie, figures to make a significant impact on special teams to start the season. Meaning, itll be a crowded wide receiver room for targets.
I think my transition has been going well, coach (John) Harbaugh, coach (David) Culley, all the special teams coaches have done a great job preparing me for whats to come, Duvernay said. Being no preseason, things of that nature, theyre having to take extra steps to have us prepared for that. We had a great scrimmage being able to fly around, go live, hit each other. That was a good chance to help that transition.
Without a preseason, the Ravens had a scrimmage last Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium complete with a stadium address announcer, a scoreboard and a pregame tunnel run-out to try and simulate a game experience as much as possible.
The teams first-round pick, Patrick Queen, has been penciled in as a starter at inside linebacker since commissioner Roger Goodell called his name in April. After that, its a mystery for how much some rookies will see the field. But perhaps the backup with the most intrigue on the team is Dobbins, the teams second-round pick.
At Ohio State, Dobbins ran through the Big Ten in three seasons as a Buckeye. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three-straight seasons, including an explosive 2,003 yard campaign in 2019 where he averaged 6.7 yards-per-carry and had 21 touchdowns.
But Dobbins also joined a backfield with quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Mark Ingram, both of whom rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season. Added into that equation are running backs Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, meaning touches for Dobbins will have to be earned in practice.
I think hes definitely going to have a role, probably a significant role, Harbaugh said. But again, it comes down to how it goes. Hes looked really good in practice, he works really hard, hes a coachable guy. Hes got a lot of talent.
Edwards, who had five preseason games in his first season compared to the zero Dobbins will play in, said that the rookie will do just fine without them.
Theyve given me a lot of information, just how to take care of myself and move as a professional athlete, Dobbins said of the veterans. How to practice, what to do to stay on top of my game. All the veterans here, theyve been so great to me.
How long it will take for the Ravens rookies to officially get acclimated to the NFL game remains to be seen. Its fair to assume that teams across the league might not have a sense of what their rookies are capable of until the season is 25 percent complete a full preseason slate.
By then, though, the teams rookies hope theyve made a name for themselves.
Starting fresh, just try to make a play when the ball comes my way and do what I can to continue to get open, Duvernay said. I know Im a rookie now, starting over, Im gonna just have to do what I do to make a name for myself and continue to develop and earn peoples respect.