Summer Huddle: Duke Blue Devils alumni to keep an eye on in the NFL

Chris Baird, Triangle Sports Network
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Daniel Lacy, Correspondent

DURHAM, N.C. – National Football League (NFL) players across the league are coming together to get back into the swing of things in organized training workouts before training camps open in July.

Here’s an overview of where a select and notable group of Duke Blue Devils alums stand on their respective teams heading into the 2017 season.

Vincent Rey, Linebacker, Cincinnati Bengals

Despite going undrafted in 2010, Rey has put together a nice career for himself as a part-time starter and team captain for the Bengals.

He has typically served as the fourth linebacker for the Bengals, but has gotten plenty of playing time due to the starters suffering injuries, especially in 2014, where he started a career-high 13 games and logged 121 tackles.

Rey is currently slated to once again be the fourth linebacker behind Vontaze Burfict, Kevin Minter and Marquis Flowers, but he will continue to see time on special teams.

Laken Tomlinson, Guard, Detroit Lions

In 2015, Tomlinson became the first Duke player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since Mike Junkin in 1987, according to NFL.com.

However, his career has gotten off to a bumpy start after temporarily losing his starting job in 2016, only to be thrust back into the lineup due to injuries.

As of now, with the line fully healthy and a hefty free-agent acquisition in T.J. Lang, Tomlinson is likely to start the season on the bench, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, Washington Redskins

A fourth-round pick in 2015, Crowder put together a solid campaign in 2016, pulling in 67 catches for 847 yards and seven touchdowns.

He also served as the team’s punt returner, tallying 27 returns for 328 yards and one touchdown, with his 12.1 yards per punt average way up from his 5.3 figure in 2015.

Crowder will likely reprise his role as the primary slot receiver given his success, and could earn a full-time starting gig after Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon departed the team in free agency.

Ross Cockrell, Cornerback, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Bills drafted Cockrell in the fourth round in 2014, but released him after one season.

However, he landed on his feet in Pittsburgh, starting 23 games in two seasons with 25 pass deflections and two interceptions.

Cockrell was a full-time starter in 2016 and is set to start again in 2017 across from Artie Burns and long-time nickel corner William Gay.

Juwan Thompson, Running Back, Denver Broncos

Thompson went undrafted in 2014, but his most productive season came as a rookie, when he garnered 272 yards and five touchdowns on 54 carries.

Since then, however, he has tallied only 74 yards and one touchdown on 26 rushes.

Thompson was on the practice squad for much of last season, but was brought back to the active roster when fellow running back C.J. Anderson went to IR.

There is currently a logjam at running back in Denver, with Anderson healthy, additions of Jamaal Charles and Bernard Pierce through free agency, 2016 draft pick Devontae Booker and 2017 draft pick De’Angelo Henderson.

This does not bode well for Thompson, who, as previously mentioned, spent about half the 2016 season on the practice squad despite less depth at the position.

Matt Skura, Center, Baltimore Ravens

Skura spent 2016 on the Ravens practice squad after going undrafted in 2016, according to the Baltimore Sun.

After the Ravens traded starter Jeremy Zuttah, Skura is in a three-way battle with John Urschel and Ryan Jensen for the starting center position.

He is viewed as the dark horse in this competition, as Urschel and Jensen both have more NFL experience than Skura.

Jeremy Cash, Linebacker, Carolina Panthers

Despite being a consensus All-American and earning ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors, Cash went undrafted in 2016, largely due to questions about what position he would play.

He joined the Panthers as a free agent and ultimately switched to linebacker, and saw action primarily on special teams.

Unfortunately for Cash, the Panthers have one of the most talented linebacker units in the NFL, making it unlikely he will crack the starting lineup anytime soon, barring injuries.