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NFL training days for Santa Clarita Valley products

Posted: July 31, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 31, 2012 1:55 a.m.

New York Giants defensive end and former College of the Canyons player Jason Pierre-Paul.

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Most National Football League teams opened training camps late last week, and scattered across the league is a sizeable group of former Santa Clarita Valley players.

Some are simply looking to make a team.

Others have larger goals in mind.

You have Hart High graduate Matt Moore’s quest to hold on to the starting quarterback job in Miami, while New York Giant and College of the Canyons’ product Jason Pierre-Paul is out to prove that last season’s breakout performance wasn’t a fluke.

Matt Moore — Miami Dolphins, quarterback

The sixth-year professional is no stranger to fighting for playing time over his career, and this season has started out in similar fashion.

After guiding Miami to a 6-6 record in 12 starts to end the 2011-12 season, which included a quarterback rating over the final nine games that ranked sixth in the NFL, the Dolphins brought in veteran quarterback David Garrard and drafted rookie Ryan Tannehill to compete with Moore for the starting job.

Garrard didn’t play last season, but started for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2005-2010. Tannehill was drafted with the eighth overall pick by the Dolphins our of Texas A&M University.

The quarterback additions weren’t the only change, either.

New head coach Joe Philbin and offensive quarterback Mike Sherman, who coached Tannehill at Texas A&M, have brought with them a West Coast Offense that Moore has had to adapt to in a hurry.

The former Hart High quarterback doesn’t have the same level of experience with the short, quick throws required with the offense that Garrard has, and some have speculated that has made Garrard the preseason favorite for the starting job.

Moore spent four years with the Carolina Panthers, never starting as many games as he did last season.

Moore told The Signal last week, though, that he feels the job is open, and so far in training camp that appears to be the case.

Reports from the first three days of training camp suggested that Moore and Garrard split first-team snaps, with Tannehill working with the second team in his first practice on Sunday.

But Moore has said he feels he is at an advantage during training camp because of his status as last season’s starting quarterback.

Jason Pierre-Paul — New York Giants, defensive lineman

This time last year, Pierre-Paul wasn’t even a sure starter. Before long, he had elevated to become one of the best defensive lineman in the NFL, and now he’s a Super Bowl champion.

The College of the Canyons product was named to The Associated Press All-Pro First Team and was voted to the Pro Bowl after recording 86 tackles, 16.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 16 games, 12 of which were starts in the regular season.

The third-year pro and first-round draft pick out of the University of South Florida was involved in numerous big plays throughout the year.

Late in the season, he blocked a potential game-tying field goal attempt against the rival Dallas Cowboys in the final seconds of a game on Dec. 11. It helped the Giants win 37-34.

Pierre-Paul will likely figure heavily into the starting defense as he prepares to back up his stellar 2011 campaign.

Delano Howell — Buffalo Bills, defensive back

Injuries during the Hart graduate’s senior season at Stanford caused his draft stock to fall, but Howell found his way onto the Bills roster as an undrafted free agent, signing on April 30.

The defensive back finished his collegiate career with seven interceptions, including a career-high five in 2010. But injuries set him back in 2011, as he had just 51 total tackles, with zero interceptions in 10 games.

Now, Howell is in training camp with the Bills trying to compete for a spot on the roster.

Buffalo starts its preseason schedule on August 9 against Washington.

Shane Vereen — New England Patriots, running back

The Valencia High graduate was drafted in the 2011 NFL draft by the New England Patriots with the 56th overall pick, but he played sparingly last season.

Hampered by a summer hamstring injury that kept him out of the majority of training camp last season, Vereen played in five games last season, totaling 39 yards on eight carries and his first NFL touchdown in a Nov. 21 win over Kansas City and 18 yards on seven carries in a Nov. 27 victory over Philadelphia.

Now, Vereen is back in camp with the Patriots and hoping to compete for more playing time.

In addition to running back, the 23-year-old has spent time returning kickoffs during the summer — splitting time with running backs Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Julian Edelman and wide receiver Donte Stallworth.

Justin Tryon — New York Giants, cornerback

The College of the Canyons product collected a ring after the Giants knocked off the Patriots 21-17 in Super Bowl XLVI, though he did so from the sideline.

Tryon signed with New York on Oct. 4 after starting the season with the Indianapolis Colts, but he suffered a season-ending broken arm a few weeks later in an Oct. 30 game.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 draft by Washington out of Arizona State, Tryon has totaled 85 tackles in five NFL seasons, with one interception coming in 2009.

There is plenty of competition for Tryon in Giants camp this season, with last year’s first-round pick Prince Amukamara, Michael Coe and third-round draft pick Jayron Hosley.

But the recent injury of cornerback Terrell Thomas, who re-injured his surgically repaired right knee, the door is open for more playing time if Tryon can prove himself in camp.
 
Troy Nolan — Houston Texans, safety

Drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans out of Arizona State, the College of the Canyons product played in 14 games last season, accumulating 35 tackles and 0.5 sacks.

Nolan also plays special teams for the Texans, and took over the starting role last season after teammate Danieal Manning suffered an injury.

Despite last season’s starting role, though, nothing is guaranteed this year, and he’ll have a lot of competition in camp to remain a starter.

In his rookie season, he grabbed three interceptions for the Texans, while playing in all 16 of Houston’s games.

Isaac Sopoaga — San Francisco 49ers, defensive lineman

The ninth-year pro has a secure starting position as a defensive tackle with the 49ers, as he has started at nose tackle and defensive tackle throughout the last four seasons.

For the first time in his NFL career, the College of the Canyons product played multiple snaps as a fullback on offense in 2011.

Defensively, he tallied 31 tackles in 16 regular season games.

Domata Peko — Cincinnati Bengals, defensive lineman

The 27-year old has spent six seasons in the NFL, all with the Bengals, after being drafted out of Michigan State in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.

As a starting defensive lineman, Peko tallied 66 tackles, second in the league among defensive tackles, to go along with 2 1/2 sacks and a forced fumble.

Jonathan Fanene — New England Patriots, defensive lineman

After Fanene spent seven seasons with the Cincinannti Bengals, he signed with the Patriots to join Vereen as a member of the defending AFC champions.

The College of the Canyons product signed with New England early in free agency, and should be an important acquisition on defense for the defending AFC champions.

In his career, Fanene has 13 1/2 sacks, including 6 1/2 last season despite starting just two games.

The Bengals drafted him in the seventh round of the 2005 draft out of the University of Utah, but he hasn't seen regular starting time since 2009.

He’ll enter competition for an interior defensive lineman spot this season.

Kyle Boller — San Diego Chargers, quarterback

After the Hart High graduate spent eight years in the NFL playing for three different teams, Boller announced his retirement on Saturday, the day after he signed a contract with the San Diego Chargers.

The former University of California, Berkeley standout attended one practice with the Chargers on Friday.

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