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Duke in the NFL: Preseason edition

Daniel Jones will make his first opening week start when the New York Giants take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Daniel Jones will make his first opening week start when the New York Giants take on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As another year of professional football inches ever closer, some former Duke football stars hope to make considerable contributions to their respective teams. Some former players aim to continue the success they have already cultivated on the field, while others strive to make a name for themselves on the national scene. Whatever their aspirations may be, following how the next weeks pan out for this small group of former Blue Devils will be captivating for the Duke faithful.

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

Perhaps the most well known of the group, quarterback Daniel Jones, now in his second season, is the definitive week one starter for the New York Giants. The gunslinger ranked first among rookie quarterbacks with 24 touchdowns, while also throwing for over 3,000 yards in only 13 games. Most NFL analysts agree that once Jones can improve upon his rookie completion rate of 62 percent, he will flourish in his role for the Giants. 

Jones’ offseason training regiment has left him stronger than ever, and in an interview with the New York Daily News, he voiced his reasoning for the change.

“I wanted to get stronger and wanted to gain some weight for what that does for every part of my game, standing in the pocket, running when I need to, and obviously throwing the ball as efficiently as I can using my strength.” 

Jones’ achilles heel last season was his inability to take care of the football, racking up 18 fumbles and 12 interceptions in only 13 games. The Giants likely are hoping that an increase in strength and pocket awareness will allow Jones to continue in his progression towards being a high level product. 

Laken Tomlinson, LG, San Francisco 49ers

Laken Tomlinson, the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft, is beginning his sixth overall season in the NFL and fourth season with the San Francisco 49ers. In this span, he has started in 71 of the possible 79 games, playing left guard for both the Detroit Lions and his current team. Tomlinson is the current starting left guard for the 49ers, and his three year, $16.5 million contract is through the 2021 season. 

Easily the most established of the former Blue Devils, Tomlinson is known for his monstrous blocks and football knowledge. During his time on campus, he double majored in evolutionary anthropology and psychology. Now, as a mature presence on an otherwise young and talented offensive line, Tomlinson’s 49ers are a top two rushing offense in the NFL, boasting over 140 yards of rushing per game in 2019. His continued success in the National Football League has been one of the crowning achievements of the Duke football program in recent years.

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets

Jamison Crowder is the “wild card” of this group of former Blue Devils. Also in his sixth season in the NFL, Crowder found success last year as the slot receiver in an otherwise banged up New York Jets wide receiver arsenal. This Blue Devil ranked in the top 40 in receptions and receiving touchdowns, where he caught 78 passes for 833 yards and six touchdowns. Crowder, who was one of quarterback Sam Darnold’s favorite options, gained traction within the league, and is now a respectable sleeper option for any fantasy football team. 

Crowder spent the first four years of his professional career with the Washington Football Team, and only recently joined the Jets. During his tenure with Washington, he was a day one starter as a rookie, but in his last season playing time started to dwindle until he was picked up by the Jets in 2019 on a three year, $28.5 million contract. Crowder has shown his ability to play crucial roles as a top-40 wide receiver, but only time will tell if his success can be sustained throughout his tenure. 

Trevon McSwain, DT, Chicago Bears

The lone player coming from the Blue Devil’s 2019 football season, Trevon McSwain was picked up by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent. The 23-year-old appeared in 49 games as a defensive lineman for Duke, recording 102 tackles alongside 14 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. With seven tackles for loss coming from his senior season just a year ago, his presence on the field was noticed by the Bears. McSwain also made an appearance in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, a game that highlights draft eligible players who have NFL aspirations. 

Currently McSwain is fourth on the Bear’s depth chart for the right defensive lineman position, but with inexperienced defenders in front of him, it would not be a surprise if the former Blue Devil found some playing time his rookie season. While the lack of a preseason hurts the prospective chances of players like McSwain, chances are still to be had for him.

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