The NFL season has come to a close, but not before a few former Blue Devils fought their way through the postseason. The Blue Zone looks at the Duke football alumni's playoff performances:
Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants
At the beginning of the 2022 season, many doubted if the New York Giants would even make the playoffs with a fourth-year, inconsistent signal-caller in Daniel Jones. Now, following an impressive year from the Giants and their quarterback, those doubters have been silenced.
Jones finished the 2022 regular season on a high note, accounting for four total touchdowns in the Giants’ 38-10 victory over the Colts that sent the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. After resting during a Week 18 game that had no playoff implications, Jones and New York faced the favored Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Round. He had one of the most impressive playoff debuts of any quarterback in recent memory, completing 24-of-35 attempts for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a 114.1 passer rating. The former Blue Devil ran all over the Vikings in the 31-24 Giants victory, rushing for 78 yards. Jones would lead a game-winning drive early in the fourth quarter, which included a crucial fourth-and-1 conversion on a quarterback sneak.
After winning their first playoff match in over a decade, the Giants headed to Philadelphia to take on their hated division rival, the top-seeded Eagles. It was there in the Divisional Round where Jones met his match, completing 15-of-27 passes for just 135 yards and an interception while taking five sacks. The Giants’ offense could only muster up a single touchdown, which occurred after the Eagles had already taken a 28-0 lead. Given the surprisingly good season that Jones and the Giants had, the 38-7 loss was anticlimactic.
After a 2022 season that showed strong improvement from years past, Jones is set to become a free agent in the offseason. The Giants are expected to offer him a sizable contract with the hope of keeping both him and star running back Saquon Barkley on the team in 2023. While questions about Jones’ style of play remain, the former sixth-overall pick will certainly start next season with high expectations.
Noah Gray, TE, Kansas City Chiefs
Noah Gray’s season of occasional production was rewarded with one of the highest honors in the sports world: the Lombardi trophy.
This path wasn’t always guaranteed for Gray and the Kansas City Chiefs. In the Divisional round against a feisty Jaguars squad, Gray hardly registered an impact in the first half as the Chiefs briefly lost their superstar quarterback and league MVP, Patrick Mahomes, to an ankle sprain. However, after Mahomes returned in the second half, Gray’s contributions increased. Mahomes and the former Blue Devil connected on a 27-yard pass that set the Chiefs up to take a 20-10 lead just before the start of the fourth quarter. Additionally, Gray helped to limit explosive Jaguars return specialist Jamal Agnew in the fourth quarter, registering two tackles to complete the 27-20 Chiefs win.
Gray would be more limited in the AFC Championship and the Super Bowl, catching just one pass early in each game. Still, the tight end played 61 total snaps in the 23-20 win against the Cincinnati Bengals and notched 51 total snaps in the 38-35 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Gray started all three of Kansas City’s postseason games, and, more importantly, contributed to the Chiefs’ second Super Bowl victory in four seasons for his first ring.
More productive days seem to be ahead for Noah Gray, although he may yet have to wait to replace Travis Kelce, who earned a First Team All-Pro nomination at age 33. Gray is under contract with the Chiefs until the 2024 season ends, and Blue Devil fans who watched him play in college are sure to hope his 2022 season is a bellwether for increased production going forward.
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