As the NFL season winds down and the playoffs loom, the Blue Zone has the latest on former Duke football stars.
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
Just over one week ago, the Giants effectively ended quarterback Daniel Jones’ season by placing him on injured reserve with a neck injury sustained in Week 12. It came as a disappointing conclusion to the campaign for Jones, who despite showing signs of improvement in his third year under center, struggled to stay healthy once again and couldn’t lift the Giants to their first winning season since 2016. With a decision on the Duke product’s fifth-year option looming in the offseason, Jones’ future in New York was less than certain.
The team wasted little time putting those questions to rest ahead of Week 16, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that the Giants plan to bring back both Jones and head coach Joe Judge next season. It would appear that Jones, the draft’s sixth overall selection in 2019, will have at least one more year to prove himself in the Big Apple, regardless of whether the organization exercises his option for 2023.
Noah Gray, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
With star tight end Travis Kelce sidelined Sunday against Pittsburgh due to COVID-19, rookie tight end Noah Gray stepped into the starting lineup for the first time in his young career. It wasn’t the most demanding of days for Gray—the Chiefs scored the first 30 points in the 36-10 win—but Duke’s all-time leader in receptions by a tight end still managed two catches for 12 yards, with the first setting up the game’s first score on a short touchdown run by Clyde Edwards-Helaire on the very next play.
Yardage aside, Sunday’s win saw Gray play a career-high 50 snaps, double that of fellow Kansas City tight end Blake Bell. The rookie’s role has visibly expanded in the latter half of the season, and if his usage rate against the Steelers is any indication, things should only continue to improve for him in Kansas City behind one of the league’s very best in Kelce.
Michael Carter II, CB, and Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets
Neither former Blue Devil suited up for the Jets in Sunday’s narrow win against Jacksonville, with the rookie Carter in the team’s COVID-19 protocols and the veteran Crowder battling a calf injury. Both players, however, are poised to return for the Jets’ final two outings of the 2021 season, and both have been significant contributors to this point: Crowder stands third on the team in receiving yards and Carter, in his age-22 season, is fourth on the team in tackles.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.