The long-awaited opening weekend of the NFL season has come and gone, as the first week came to a close Monday night. Due to the pandemic, the NFL opted not to have preseason games this year. For many teams, this weekend was the first time they were able to see their players on the field, and many fans expected the play to be a bit sloppier than it typically is. For former Duke players, the first week of the season had its ups and downs.
Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets
In a game in which the Jets were lacking in excitement for much of the play, Crowder emerged as one of the few bright spots. Continuing on the trend from the back end of last year, Crowder and quarterback Sam Darnold put their strong connection on display. He was targeted 13 times, bringing in seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came in the third quarter, in which the slot receiver hauled in a screen pass, made three Buffalo Bills defenders miss and ran the ball 69 yards for the score. This home run play brought the Jets to within 11 points of the Bills, before eventually going on to lose 27-17. For Crowder, expect to see him continually targeted at a high volume throughout the season and making big plays where he can.
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Starting his season off in a Monday night prime time game, former Duke star Daniel Jones got off to a slow start against a very strong Steelers defense. However, early in the second quarter, Jones dropped an inch-perfect pass to receiver Darius Slayton, who was in double coverage, for a 41-yard touchdown. On the next drive, however, he threw an interception to T.J. Watt, a Pro Bowl outside linebacker last season. Jones, a player who struggled with fumbles last season, showed great improvement as he was sacked three times but did not fumble the ball once. He finished the game with 279 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, as well as adding a team-leading 22 rushing yards. Jones and the Giants will hope to do better after a 26-16 loss in Week 1.
Laken Tomlinson, LG, San Francisco 49ers
Last season’s NFC Champions got off to a start which they—and most of their fans—would like to forget. In a shocking loss to the Arizona Cardinals, one of last season’s top offenses seemed a bit stagnant. After a quick start on a 76-yard touchdown pass to running back Raheem Mostert, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo struggled to push the ball further, only scoring one more touchdown in the game. On that Mostert touchdown however, the offensive line, including Tomlinson, shined as they gave Garoppolo just the right amount of time to pass the ball to his man. Overall, against a Cardinals team that prioritized upgrading its defensive line in the offseason, the 49ers gave up three sacks and will look to build on that start in their upcoming game against the Jets.
Matt Skura, C, Baltimore Ravens
A large part of why quarterback Lamar Jackson was so successful in his MVP run in 2019 was the Ravens' offensive line, which got out to another incredible start. In their protection against a Browns’ defensive line that has two former first-round draft picks, the Ravens only gave up two sacks. Skura was not responsible for either of them. On top of this, Baltimore rushed for 107 yards and Jackson maintained a completion percentage of 80 percent. Defensive lines don’t get much tougher than the Browns, so look for Skura and the Ravens to continue to get better after an already impressive start.
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