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Duke in the NFL: Week 2 edition

Laken Tomlinson has helped the 49ers' rushing attack flourish in the first two outings.
Laken Tomlinson has helped the 49ers' rushing attack flourish in the first two outings.

As the Blue Devils are off to a humbling 0-2 start to their season, let’s catch up with some of the former Duke football stars making names for themselves as pros. Solid opening week performances across the board made for a strong starting point in the already bizarre 2020 NFL season. Three former Blue Devils made contributions Sunday while a key wide receiver nurses an injury. 

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

Jones and the Giants fell to the hands of the Chicago Bears—with star running back Saquon Barkley hitting the turf one play into the second quarter and suffering a season-ending ACL tear. “Danny Dimes” struggled mightily against the strong Bears defense, starting his afternoon with a Robert Quinn sack-fumble and a three-and-out. Even a stronger drive ended in a Deon Bush interception. 

The running game had all but disappeared for New York, with Jones being the team’s leading rusher through two games with only 43 yards. Despite the miserable first half, Jones and the Giants turned it around by finding the end zone early in the fourth quarter after an impressive 95-yard drive. After taking over possession down by four with just over two minutes to play, Jones made a clutch throw to Evan Engram for a 22-yard gain and converted on two fourth downs to give the Giants a chance to win, only to be spoiled by a tipped pass at the goal line as time expired. 

The Charlotte native finished with 241 yards and an interception. Now winless and without their star running back, the Giants will experiment with Dion Lewis and Devonta Freeman as options out of the backfield to support Jones and the offense.

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets

Following an impressive seven-catch, 115-yard showing in the Jets’ opener, the top receiving option for New York was ruled out of last Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. The Jets were cautious with Crowder late in the week, having decided he would not suit up as early as Friday. The team does not believe the injury is serious, and he will hope to follow up on his season debut Sunday at Indianapolis. 

Lucas Patrick, OL, Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay offensive line deserves more credit than it receives for its phenomenal pass protection as well as its run blocking in a 42-21 thrashing of the Detroit Lions Sunday. The Packers surrendered just one sack and sliced through the Lions defense with 259 rushing yards, while averaging over seven yards per rush. Patrick, an undrafted 311-pound right guard, was a crucial factor in creating numerous big plays in the Green Bay win. The Packers now head to New Orleans for a primetime Week 3 matchup. 

Laken Tomlinson, OL, San Francisco 49ers

2015 first-round pick Laken Tomlinson again finds himself on the list of Duke’s top NFL performers. As an offensive guard, like Patrick, Tomlinson used his powerful blocking to create space for numerous San Francisco breakaway runs. Running back Raheem Mostert scored from 80 yards out on the first play of the game against the Jets, and Tomlinson delivered a key block to allow Jerick McKinnon to convert a third-and-31 with a 55-yard sprint. The 49ers rushing attack was on par with that of Green Bay, as they gained an efficient 6.3 yards per carry. 

Unfortunately for Tomlinson and his team, a missed block on Jets lineman Quinnen Williams resulted in a sack and ultimately an ankle injury to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, which forced the 49ers starting quarterback out of the game. Without Garoppolo, San Francisco leaned on backup Nick Mullens and may need to count on him again when the 49ers square off against Jones and the Giants this Sunday.


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