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Duke in the NFL: Crowder enters free agency, Tomlinson excels against Rams as regular season concludes

Daniel Jones' future as the New York Giants' starting quarterback has some question marks as the organization overhauls their front office.
Daniel Jones' future as the New York Giants' starting quarterback has some question marks as the organization overhauls their front office.

The NFL regular season has concluded and the playoffs are on the horizon. That means it's time for the Blue Zone to check in on former Duke football players' prospects and performances in the pros:

Jamison Crowder, WR, New York Jets

Crowder made his return to the field this Sunday for the Jets’ matchup against the Bills. Unfortunately, the veteran receiver was only able to record one pass for 16 yards before exiting the game early with the same calf injury that had sidelined him for the previous two games. With that, Crowder ends his seventh season in the NFL as the Jets’ fourth leading receiver in yards, with 51 receptions for 447 yards, two touchdowns and one lost fumble. He trails receivers Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Keenan Cole. Sunday might just have been the last time we saw Crowder in a Jets uniform, as he is heading into free agency this offseason and is unlikely to be re-signed with a second-year Moore ready to take the reins next season. 

Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants

Jones has a lot of work to put in this offseason, as he continues to rehab the neck injury that cut his third season with the Giants short. This season, he only played 11 games, missing six due to injury. He passed for 2,428 yards with a 64.3% completion rate, ten touchdowns and seven interceptions, while taking 22 sacks. He also tallied two rushing touchdowns and fumbled the ball seven times this season, a slight improvement from last year’s 11 fumbles over 14 games and a significant improvement from his rookie season’s 18 fumbles over 13 games.

With both head coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman parting ways with the Giants organization, Jones will have to impress his new coach and general manager if he’d like to stay with the team after the 2022 season. He is now eligible for an extension, but the more immediate decision comes up in early May, which is the deadline for the Giants to choose whether or not to exercise his fifth year option for 2023. 

Laken Tomlinson, G, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers guard put up a solid performance against the Los Angeles Rams, who possess one of the most talented defensive lines in the league led by star pass rusher Aaron Donald. Tomlinson only allowed one pressure in pass protection, and, as PFF statistics are finalized, he will likely be the 49ers’ highest graded run-blocker for the game. After the 49ers’ playoff run, Tomlinson will be headed to free agency as the 26th-ranked free agent according to PFF’s 2022 NFL Free Agent Rankings; the veteran guard recorded just five penalties against him and only allowed two sacks this entire season. 

Lucas Patrick, G, Green Bay Packers

With David Bakhtiari, one of the best left tackles in the league, returning to the starting lineup after recovering from a torn ACL, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur chose to move Patrick to the right guard position. This flexibility and ability to perform well on every position on the offensive is one of Patrick’s strengths. Throughout a season where Bakhtiari, Josh Myers, Elgton Jenkins and Billy Turner all missed games due to injury, the veteran guard provided the Packers' offensive line with a sense of stability. The Duke product played all 17 games, starting in 13 of them, and took snaps at every interior lineman position. 

Noah Gray, TE, Kansas City Chiefs

The rookie tight end did not log any snaps or receptions for the Chiefs in their regular season finale, but his season continues, as the Chiefs enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the AFC. As of now, Gray has played 16 games, recording seven receptions on ten targets for 36 yards, one touchdown and no fumbles. A young, third-string tight end, Gray can look forward to leveling up his game in the 2022 season as he backs up star Travis Kelce and veteran Blake Bell.

Michael Carter II, Cornerback, NY Jets

Carter ended his season taking 80% of the Week 18 snaps, ending the game with three solo tackles. The performance brings closure to a solid rookie season, during which he played 15 games and recorded 72 total tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries. These stats landed Carter high on the Jets’ cornerback rankings, second only to Bryce Hall, who recorded 79 total tackles.

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