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Duke in the NFL: Daniel Jones' struggles continue

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has had a rough start to the 2020 season, leading to his 50.0 QBR.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones has had a rough start to the 2020 season, leading to his 50.0 QBR.

It could be fate. Maybe it’s destiny. Two of the top former Blue Devils have been thrust to the basement of the NFL. Over the years, Duke football has taught us that the game is not always pretty, and this week the NFL did nothing but illuminate the unfortunate circumstances of a few of Cutcliffe’s protégés.

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

Again at the forefront of the weekly recap of Duke’s shining stars sits Daniel Jones. There are some good things we can take away from his latest outing at home against the 49ers: he just played in his 16th career game, so we’ve now witnessed a full season worth of football from the 2019 sixth overall draft pick. His numbers through these games will remind Giants fans of the good ol’ days when Jones’ predecessor Eli Manning stood front and center in the Meadowlands—Jones’ 3,726 yards, 26 touchdowns and 16 interceptions are the numbers of a solid starting quarterback. Also, Jones is proving he can lead the team on the ground without phenom running back Saquon Barkley. 

The good ends there. The Giants are 0-3 and in the cellar of the atrocious NFC East. Jones has twice as many interceptions as touchdowns on the year after throwing a pass right into the hands of San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner. He leads his team with 92 rushing yards, numbers that aren’t impressive through three games. Jones had zero red-zone snaps, held the ball for just over 20 minutes of gameplay and his defense surrendered 343 yards to backup quarterback Nick Mullens. Just as Duke could be contemplating a potential quarterback switch, the first-year Giants captain is facing some adversity of his own.

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets

Well, this segment was supposed to be a summary of another double-digit reception game from the Jets’ top receiver. Instead, here’s an update on Crowder and his hamstring injury, which has now forced the 27-year-old to miss his second straight game. Without Crowder, who is coming off of a 78-catch, 833-yard season, quarterback Sam Darnold struggled mightily against the Colts, throwing two pick-sixes in a 36-7 loss. The other 0-3 New York team will love to see Crowder back as soon as he is healthy. 

The Jets do not believe the Monroe, N.C.,  native will need to hit the injured reserve, although Crowder did not practice at all before the Jets’ trip to Indianapolis. Crowder had limited participation in practice Monday, but he will need a speedy recovery in order to take the field on Thursday against the winless Broncos. 

Laken Tomlinson, G, San Francisco 49ers

After Jones and Crowder and their Big Apple-sized misfortunes, let’s move on to some more successful Week 3 performances from former Blue Devils. 

A week removed from losing their starting quarterback (and tight end, edge rusher and running back), the San Francisco 49ers dismantled the struggling Giants. Second string quarterback Nick Mullens led an offense which never punted and either scored or turned the ball over on missed field goals each time down the field. The offensive line, including Duke’s very own Laken Tomlinson, again anchored a proficient running game, which allowed three different players to find the end zone. With just over one minute left in the first half, Mullens handed the ball off to Jerick McKinnon, who, with the help of a powerful Tomlinson block on linebacker Lorenzo Carter, squeezed through the left end of the trenches untouched and dove for the pylon for a San Francisco score.

Thomas Hennessy, LS, New York Jets

Long snappers are people too, some have said. Unknown to many, the long snapper’s unique ability makes them so crucial on the field. Thomas Hennessy gets his well-earned credit after a reliable performance against the Indianapolis Colts. Hennessy was on the field for no more than six snaps Sunday: five punts and the successful extra point attempt after the Jets’ lone touchdown, doing his part.

Chris Rumph II, DE

No, there’s not another edge rusher named Chris Rumph II in the NFL. We’re talking about the one and only Chris Rumph II, the strong anchor of the current Blue Devils’ defensive front. A 2021 NFL mock draft has slotted Rumph as the 30th pick thanks to his impressive performances in the first several games. Regardless of Duke’s standing, Rumph and fellow lineman Victor Dimukeje will continue to get NFL consideration moving forward. If selected in the top 32, Rumph would become the first Duke defensive player taken in the first round since arguable draft bust Mike Junkin was taken fifth overall in 1987. There will be plenty of talk around the NFL capabilities of both Rumph and Dimukeje down the road. Watch out.

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