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SCV players back in NFL camp again

Posted: July 30, 2014 10:23 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2014 10:23 p.m.

Hart grad and Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is embracing his role as the Dolphins' backup QB.

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The offseason is over and training camp is officially in session for all 32 teams in the National Football League.

A total of 10 Santa Clarita Valley athletes are in camp with various teams, and they come in all shapes, sizes and levels of experience.

Of the local products, there are players who will have to fight just to make a team’s 53-man regular season roster and others who are already proven pros and looking to take steps forward this season.

We’ll classify these players into three categories: “Starters,” “locks” and “work to do.”

Starters are players who are likely to start in their positions and could make a big impact for their team. Locks indicate that the player is in no danger of being cut during training camp, and work to do applies to players who need to prove something in camp to avoid being cut.

 

Starters

Domata Peko — Cincinnati Bengals, defensive tackle

There won’t be much drama here. The former College of the Canyons player has been a starter in Cincinnati since 2007 and there’s nothing to indicate that’s going to change.

Peko, 29, is going into his ninth year in the NFL and he’s been a solid piece of the Bengals’ deep defensive line practically since day one with the team.

 

Jason Pierre-Paul — New York Giants, defensive tackle

This season could be a big one for Pierre-Paul, who is entering a contract year and is coming off a season which was plagued with injuries.

After back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in 2011 and 2012, the former COC star and first-round draft pick saw his numbers drop last season.

In 11 games played, he had 20 tackles, 2.0 sacks and one interception.

Reports say the 25-year-old Pierre-Paul is now fully healthy after dealing with back problems, which means he’ll try to return to his 2011 All-Pro form when he recorded 16.5 sacks.

 

Shane Vereen — New England Patriots, running back

The former Valencia High star is the Santa Clarita Valley’s most high profile pro football player going into this season.

Entering his fourth year in the NFL, the 25-year-old running back is coming off his most productive season of his career. And that’s despite him missing eight regular season games with a broken wrist.

Last year, he racked up 208 rushing yards off 44 carries and a career-high 427 receiving yards off 47 catches. He scored four total touchdowns.

If he can stay healthy, 2014 looks to be a potential breakout year for Vereen, who has emerged as one of the Patriots’ primary weapons in both the running and passing game.

With Vereen set to become a free agent at the end of this season, his performance could go a long way in determining his future in the NFL.

Locks

Delano Howell — Indianapolis Colts, safety

It’s worth noting that two years ago, Howell would have been listed in the “work to do” category after he was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Buffalo Bills.

Now entering his third year as a pro, Howell could be moving up to a starting position soon with the Colts.

The 24-year-old Hart High graduate has been taking reps with the first team so far in training camp, which bodes well after he played six games and made 15 tackles last season as a backup.

With Colts veteran starting safety Antoine Bethea departing to San Francisco, a new starting position opens up. Howell will be one of the top candidates to play alongside LaRon Landry as a safety.

Matt Moore — Miami Dolphins, quarterback

The Hart graduate has settled into a backup role behind third-year starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

At age 29, he’s in his final season of a two-year, $8 million contract with Miami, which is a sizeable deal for a backup signal caller.

After this season, Moore will have the option of testing the free agency market and trying to vie for a starting job on a different team.

Mychal Rivera — Oakland Raiders, tight end

Coming into his second season, it looks like the starting tight end job is Rivera’s to lose. But he hasn’t won the starting role for sure yet.

Last year, in his rookie season, the former COC player finished the season as the team’s top tight end in receptions (38) and yards (407) after being drafted by Oakland in the sixth round.

That was due partly to the season-ending shoulder injury dealt to fellow Raiders tight end David Ausberry early in the year.

Now, those two are competing for the No. 1 spot.

Brock Vereen — Chicago Bears, safety

Just a few months after being drafted in the fourth round by the Bears in May, the Valencia High graduate is already impressing coaches.

Injuries to fellow Chicago safeties Chris Conte and Craig Steltz have opened the door for Vereen to potentially earn the starting free safety job.

He’s reportedly been working out with the starting defense.

His primary competition for the job looks to be M.D. Jennings, a fourth-year NFL player who was a starter for the Green Bay Packers last season.

“I feel like a rookie, but there’s definitely a sense of confidence,” Vereen said in a recent interview with the Chicago Sun-Times.

On Oct. 26, Vereen’s Bears will travel to face the New England Patriots, where older brother Shane Vereen plays running back.

Work to do

Karim Barton — Philadelphia Eagles, offensive lineman

As one of this year’s undrafted free agent signings for Philadelphia out of a small school, Morgan State, the former COC player is a longshot to make the roster.

Barton will be competing for a spot at guard, where the Eagles already have veterans Evan Mathis and Rodd Herremans locked in as starters. The 22-year-old is up against fellow rookie guards Josh Andrews and Donald Hawkins for another potential spot.

Caylin Hauptmann — Seattle Seahawks, offensive lineman

Though he’s yet to play a snap in the NFL yet, the second-year offensive tackle is trying to earn a spot as a reserve player for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Hauptmann, 23, who played for COC in 2009, was originally signed by the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent last year. Later in the season, he was picked up off waivers by Seattle from Cleveland’s practice squad.

He remained with the team through the rest of the season.

Tavon Rooks — New Orleans Saints, offensive lineman

As a sixth-round draft pick this year, the former COC player starts training camp with a lot of upside as a 6-foot, 5-inch, 300-pound tackle out of Kansas State.

He’s been held out of practice in the opening week of camp due to a minor back issue, but he’s considered a bubble player to make the roster.

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