Ravens WR Makes Comparison to Former Steelers Duo

Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown

Getty A young Ravens WR has made a comparison with a former Pro-Bowl duo for the Steelers.

Young wide receivers are firmly under the spotlight for the Baltimore Ravens ahead of the 2022 NFL season. The team needs at least one member of an unproven quartet to emerge as a go-to target on the outside for quarterback Lamar Jackson.

Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown filled that role admirably last season. He hauled in 91 receptions for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns, but Brown was traded to the Arizona Cardinals for a first-round draft pick.

Replacing his production is a tall order, but one upstart receiver on the Ravens roster is taking inspiration from an unlikely place. He’s compared himself and a fellow pass-catcher to a former Pro-Bowl duo for bitter AFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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James Proche and Devin Duvernay Keen to Emulate Steelers

Speaking on an edition of The Lounge Podcast with Ryan Mink and Garrett Downing, James Proche II compared himself and Devin Duvernay to Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders:

It’s a lofty comparison for two receivers entering just their third season in the NFL. So far, Proche and Duvernay have barely scratched the surface of their potential, at least in terms of production.

Proche, selected in the sixth round of the 2020 draft, has caught 17 passes for 216 yards and has yet to score a touchdown. Duvernay’s made a few more waves, making 53 receptions for 473 yards and a pair of touchdowns since entering the league as a third-round pick in 2020.

As Proche pointed out, there are obvious similarities with the draft status of Sanders and Brown. AB was a sixth-rounder like Proche, way back in 2010, while Sanders was selected three rounds earlier in the same draft.

That’s where the comparison ends though. While Proche and Duvernay combined for just 49 receptions and 474 yards in 2021, Brown and Sanders delivered some outstanding seasons in Pittsburgh.

They both went to the Pro Bowl in 2014, after dominating during the 2013 campaign. Brown caught 110 passes for 1,499 yards and eight touchdowns, while Sanders added 67 catches and six scores.

Both players tormented the Ravens, with Brown making 99 receptions for 1,191 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games, according to StatMuse. Sanders, who left the Steelers in 2014, four years before Brown quit the team, “has 37 catches for 405 yards and has scored 3 touchdowns in 9 games against the Ravens in his career,” per the same source.

While Brown is now content to stay away from football after several controversies the last few years, Sanders won Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos and returned to the big game with the San Francisco 49ers four years later. He played for the Buffalo Bills in 2021, but Sanders is now a free agent, the type of veteran the Ravens could use to add a proven commodity to their receiving corps.

As MMQB’s Albert Breer pointed out, Sanders and Brown were just two examples of the success rate former Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert had drafting wide receivers:

The Ravens haven’t come close to emulating that success, but that could change if Proche, Duvernay or another of the Ravens’ youthful wideouts can step up.

Pressure on Young WRs to Deliver

Brown isn’t the only established pair of hands the Ravens will have to do without this season. Sammy Watkins also left to join the Green Bay Packers in free agency, leaving Jackson to again rely on All-Pro tight end Mark Andrews. It means Andrews will be a marked man for every defense on the schedule.

His life will be easier if Proche and Duvernay can replicate Brown and Sanders more effectively. They’ll have a better chance if Duvernay steps into the role vacated Brown, something Dave Kluge of Football Guys thinks could happen:

Duvernay should make a leap in Brown’s absence, but the fortunes of this new-look group will depend more on any progress made by Rashod Bateman. Baltimore’s first-round pick in 2021, Bateman was limited by an ongoing groin injury as a rookie, but he’s expected to be a breakout player this season, per NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks.

Bateman playing up to his billing would give Duvernay, Proche and Tylan Wallace more one-on-one coverage matchups to exploit. It’s optimistic to think any one of this foursome will match what Brown and Sanders have produced, but the Ravens’ biggest weakness is also an opportunity for somebody to emerge from obscurity and become a star.

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