Through three weeks of the NFL season, the Blue Zone gives you an update on some of the key former Blue Devils currently at the next level:
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Serving as backup to Eli Manning during the first two weeks, the sixth overall pick excelled in his first start in the NFL. Jones threw for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions on Sunday, good for an impressive passer rating of 112.7. He added two more touchdowns and 28 yards on the ground to cap off a 32-31 victory on the road against the Buccaneers. The rookie’s performance was even more impressive than the box score shows. Bouncing back from an 18-point deficit at halftime, the Giants achieved their biggest comeback win since 1970. New York was also without star running back Saquon Barkley, who left with a high ankle sprain late in the second quarter. For the entirety of the comeback bid, Jones would have to operate without the frequent runs and short checkdowns from Barkley that became a staple of the Giants' offense. With his performance Sunday, the Independence Bowl MVP has solidified his place as starter for the rest of the year and, alongside Barkley, will be tasked with leading the rebuild of the franchise.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets
After an impressive Week 1, the fifth year receiver’s production has taken a serious dip. In a 30-14 loss to the Patriots, Crowder hauled in just two receptions on five targets for only 25 yards. This lackluster performance was the result of a number of factors, though. In Sam Darnold’s absence, replacement quarterback Luke Falk threw for just 98 yards, struggling against a stifling New England defense that tops the league in almost every major team statistic. Additionally, Crowder played out of position, lining up on the outside rather than at his typical position in the slot. At just 5-foot-9, the North Carolina native lacks the physical attributes to outmuscle outside corners, and he couldn’t use the agility and speed that serves him so well in his normal slot role. As the Jets continue to search for their first win of the year, Crowder should be expected to return to the slot, where he flashed glimpses of his old self earlier in the year.
Ross Cockrell, CB, Carolina Panthers
Coming off a brutal injury to his leg, the sixth-year veteran has looked to make the most of any game time he can receive during his first active season in Carolina. After riding the bench for the entirety of Week 2, he was thrust into action against the Cardinals, playing in all 75 of the Panthers’ defensive snaps. Head coach Ron Rivera looked to mitigate the dual threat posed by Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray by playing the Cockrell as a fifth defensive back throughout the contest. He made the most of the opportunity, logging six tackles, his most in a game since 2016. Cockrell also had a hand in a key interception during the third quarter, coming off a blitz to pressure the rookie quarterback into the pick. Overall, the defense was able to contain Murray to a passer rating of just 73.1. After his performance on Sunday, the former Duke standout will expect to play a moderate to major role in the defense in the coming weeks as he continues to take advantage of his comeback opportunity in the NFL.
Laken Tomlinson, OG, San Francisco 49ers
The Niners find themselves 3-0 to start the season, their best start since 1998, largely due to their stellar offensive line. The unit has only given up two sacks so far, while paving the way for an impressive rushing attack that boasts two top-15 running backs in yards gained. The former first round draft pick has been a key part of that. Tomlinson has yet to miss an offensive snap for the team this year, performing well enough to become a key part of the San Francisco offense. The line faltered a bit Sunday against the Steelers, giving up one sack and eight hits on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, yet they still excelled in the ground game with the Niners pounding their way to 168 rush yards on 4.2 attempts a carry.
Breon Borders, CB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Listed at third on the depth chart to start the year, it seemed like the 2017 undrafted free agent would get some game time as the Jags looked to begin a relatively uncompetitive season. However, behind established stars in A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, as well as consistent play from Tre Herndon and D.J. Hayden, Borders has struggled to see the field, appearing only on a handful of special teams snaps in Weeks 1 and 2 before not playing at all in Week 3. With Ramsey currently engaged in a public dispute with the Jaguars over his salary, and fellow backup Josh Robinson battling a lingering foot injury, it’s possible that Borders sees some defensive snaps should Jacksonville be forced to plug some depth. Nonetheless, it appears that Borders’ role for the year will be an extremely limited one as a special teams player.
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