Kevin Kinder \

West Virginia's John DePalma and Nick O'Toole Try To Secure Roster Spots

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - John DePalma and Nick O'Toole face difficult odds in landing on an NFL regular season roster this year.

DePalma, a long snapper with the Philadelphia Eagles, has a very specific skill at a position known to keep veterans longer than most others. O'Toole, a punter, faces much of the same issues, and is currently a free agent trying to snag another opportunity after tryouts with Minnesota and Jacksonville.

"My experience was good," said O'Toole, who averaged 45.4 yards per punt for West Virginia last season. "I went to the Vikings rookie mini camp and competed with another punter, and ultimately they decided to keep him and let me go. However, I found out they were at their 90-man Organized Team Activities roster, so they let him go. Then I had a tryout with the Jaguars and competed with two other punters. They did just sign Brad Nortman this year, so that looks more like a camp/preseason thing."

Nortman, a fifth-year player out of Wisconsin, was originally drafted by Carolina and played in Super Bowl 50 before going to Jacksonville as an unrestricted free agent last season. The Jaguars just signed Nortman to a four-year deal worth $8.8 million in March, meaning O'Toole's chance to make the team would be on the practice squad.

"Right now I am just training back home and waiting for the next opportunity when camp picks up at the end of July," he said.

DePalma, meanwhile, just completed the mandatory rookie mini camp with the Eagles, and faces the difficulty of trying to snag the lone 53-man roster spot on a franchise with an established long snapper.

"The mini camp and OTA's have been a great time to really focus on my craft and get better," DePalma said. "I have been getting use to the NFL speed and an eager for training camp to compete for a roster spot."

DePalma faces a formidable challenge in unseating Jon Dorenbos, a 14-year veteran out of UTEP. Dorenbos was a 2009 Pro Bowl selection, and has played in every game for the Eagles since his signing in the middle of the 2006 season. He was resigned to a four-year contract on March 11, 2013 that is expected to keep him in Philadelphia through the 2017 season. Currently ranking seventh on the Eagles' all-time list of consecutive games played, Dorenbos would move into second if he plays in all 16 contests this season.

That doesn't mean DePalma couldn't still make the roster, at least on a practice squad. That would give him two seasons to hone the needed skill set and prepare to take the potentially vacated slot when Dorenbos' latest contract expires, at which time he would be 38 years old. Among the most disastrous issues for NFL teams is an injured long snapper; No coaching staffs will reserve a second roster spot for a back-up on the 53-man list, and thus an injury can completely destroy special teams. It has happened before, and since no players outside of the starting snapper devote time and reps to the practice, it's very much like throwing a receiver in at running back - the result is a surefire drop off. 

"He's a very good, experienced player," DePalma said. "I'm hoping to show them I'm very capable of doing this job, too."

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