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Duke in the NFL: Season recap edition

It was an up and down 2020 season for Daniel Jones, but he was able to put together a six-game streak of solid performances to finish the year.
It was an up and down 2020 season for Daniel Jones, but he was able to put together a six-game streak of solid performances to finish the year.

The regular season is over, so the Blue Zone is here to give you a recap of how the season ended for some former Blue Devils in the NFL:

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

The No. 6 overall pick from the 2019 Draft is enter the offseason off of a positive ending to his second year. Jones threw for 229 yards and two touchdowns—along with one interception—in the Giants’ victory over division rival Dallas. Despite the fact that New York failed to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season, Jones helped propel a surge in the second half of the year, as the Giants rebounded from a 1-7 start to nearly win the NFC East. 

The Charlotte native’s numbers were not awe-inspiring, but there were some encouraging signs of growth as the season went on. Jones tossed 11 touchdowns and racked up 210.2 passing yards per contest in 14 starts, as the Giants maintained a steady ground attack even in the wake of star running back Saquon Barkley going down in Week 2 with an ACL tear. In terms of turnovers, which have plagued Jones throughout his pro career, the numbers show that the former Duke signal caller improved in that area as well. Over his last six starts, Jones threw only one interception and lost two fumbles. 

Despite the positives, Jones still needs to make much more progress to justify that first round selection in 2018. His pocket presence needs to improve and the Giants need to consider utilizing his mobility more on designed quarterback runs. With the No. 11  pick in the upcoming draft, New York would be well served to give Jones another weapon on the perimeter, such as Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith or his Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle. 

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets

 In an otherwise dreadful season for the Jets, Crowder was a bright spot. The North Carolina native reeled in 59 catches for 699 yards and six scores, each of which led the team. Despite missing four games due to injury, Crowder was consistent when he was in the lineup, providing Sam Darnold with a security blanket on third downs and in the red zone. 

Crowder is under contract for next season, so it is likely that he will remain a Jet for another year. However, his salary is not guaranteed and the organization is in the process of a full-scale rebuild. It makes sense for the Jets to keep Crowder around for whoever next year’s quarterback—whether it’s Darnold, or a college prospect such as Justin Fields or Zach Wilson—will be. 

Laken Tomlinson, G, San Francisco 49ers

 For the defending NFC champion 49ers, this season was filled was disappointment. Injuries to key players on both sides of the ball, particularly quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and edge-rushing phenom Nick Bosa, decimated a talented team that had to deal with arguably the toughest division in the league. Despite that, Laken Tomlinson brought stability and a clean bill of health to the offensive line.

 Tomlinson suited up for every offensive snap besides two this year, as San Francisco needed to have a solid running game to compensate for backup quarterbacks being in the lineup for over half the season. 

 The 49ers ranked 15th in yards per contest on the ground, a far cry from last year’s 2nd-place finish in that category. With Tomlinson now entering free agency, where he will play next season is clearly up in the air. While his future remains to be seen in terms of destination, many teams could use a veteran at left guard such as Tomlinson. 

Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

In the last half of the season, Duke's former linebacker, Joe Giles-Harris, made a name for himself playing the strong side linebacker in the Jacksonville Jaguar's defense. He finished the season with 20 tackles and a sack, but what's even more exciting is that Jacksonville is a team looking for young players to build around.

After going undrafted out of Duke, Giles-Harris worked his way onto the Jaguars' roster in 2019 and primarily played special teams snaps all of last season. A couple injuries in the linebacker corps and all of a sudden, Giles-Harris found himself starting at strong side linebacker.

Jacksonville fired head coach Doug Marrone so the team is in a bit of a limbo phase, giving guys like Giles-Harris the opportunity to take a starting job and never give it back. Some are so optimistic on him that they believe he should already be the starter once training camp rolls around. It was a long journey to earning his first NFL start, so it'd be difficult to not root for Giles-Harris to become the permanent starter in Jacksonville.

 

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