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Oklahomans in the NFL: Who to watch in the 2021-22 football season

Cardinals Football
Posted at 4:37 PM, Aug 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 16:49:54-04

TULSA, Okla. — The NFL kicks off the 2021-22 season Thursday, Sept. 9 on NBC with the Dallas Cowboys hitting the road to Tampa Bay to take on the defending champion Buccaneers.

The Week 1 matchup pits the 28-year-old Dak Prescott coming off a season-ending injury last season with a brand new contract against 44-year-old perpetual winner Tom Brady.

For Oklahomans, perhaps they'll lean in the direction of Cowboys fandom this season -- but others may be looking for fellow Okies around the league to support.

Here are a handful of Oklahoma natives -- players born in Oklahoma -- to keep an eye out for this season:

Gerald McCoy

Redskins Panthers Football - Gerald McCoy
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) is assisted following an injury during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

Longtime NFL veteran Gerald McCoy is expected to return to the field this season after tearing his quad in Cowboys training camp last year.

The 33-year-old Oklahoma City native is joining the Las Vegas Raiders for the 2021-22 season in hopes of reviving his six-time Pro Bowl-worthy career.

He'll be bringing a veteran presence to the Raiders struggling defense despite if he remains a healthy part of the roster to start the season.

McCoy has 59.5 career sacks after playing nine of his 10 seasons with Tampa Bay, and spending one season with the Carolina Panthers where had 5.0 sacks with seven tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits.

Jace Sternberger

The return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay keeps the Packers in the mix as a championship contender -- and keeps Enid native Jace Sternberger in the mix as a part of a high-powered offense.

However, the 25-year-old tight end will start the season on the sideline as he serves a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

Sternberger has seen a handful of snaps with the starters, leading his position in camp snaps, which could help him become a more consistent part of the offense when he returns to the field.

He had 12 catches for 114 yards last season including one touchdown grab.

Josh Jacobs

Raiders Football - Josh Jacobs
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs runs a drill during an NFL football practice Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Henderson, Nev. (AP Photo/David Becker)

Tulsa native and 2020 Pro-Bowler Josh Jacobs is entering his third season in the league as the starting running back for the Raiders.

Jacobs, 23, is coming off his second-consecutive 1,000 yard rushing season that was overshadowed by his overperforming rookie year.

However, Jacobs last season became a larger threat as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 13 more passes than the season before.

In a league full of two-way backs, the development of his receiving skill will be important in maintaining his status as a top NFL running back over the next few seasons.

Sterling Shepard

New York Giants NFL training camp - Sterling Shepard
Wide receivers Sterling Shepard, left, and Kenny Golladay chat during New York Giants NFL training camp held at Eddie Moraes Stadium, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/John Munson)

Sterling Shepard, an Oklahoma City native, finds himself as the veteran of the New York Giants wide receiver room at 28-years-old this season.

Though newly acquired Kenny Golladay is likely to eat up the targets from quarterback Daniel Jones, Shepard has been the lone constant in the Giants offense for the last five seasons -- averaging 54.1 yards per game and tallying 20 total touchdown catches in his careers.

The Giants with a presumably healthy Saquon Barkley will be in a make-or-break season with Jones at QB which means Shepard should see plenty of action every Sunday.

Tre Brown

Seahawks Football - Tre Brown
Seattle Seahawks rookie cornerback Tre Brown (22) carries helmets as he waves to fans after NFL football practice Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

"He’s a smart football player," says Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll of rookie cornerback Tre Brown to start training camp.

"He’s been aggressive.”

Brown, a Tulsa native, is a 5'10 rookie cornerback looking to make a difference in the revival of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defensive reputation.

The Seahawks selected Brown in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft and is battling to stay healthy enough for a starting job in Seattle.

Tyler Lockett

Seahawks 49ers Football - Tyler Lockett
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) during an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

On the other side of the Seattle Seahawks huddle is veteran wide receiver and Tulsa native Tyler Lockett.

Lockett, 28, made First-Team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl in his rookie season yet hasn't had those honors again despite putting up considerably better seasons since then.

He's had two consecutive 1,000 yard receiving seasons the last two years and hauled in 18 touchdowns in that timespan.

Lockett is consistently one of quarterback Russell Wilson's go-to targets and could see plenty of open looks this season with D.K. Metcalf drawing double-teams on the other side of the field this season.

Zaven Collins

Cardinals Football - Zaven Collins
Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins chases down a running back during NFL football training camp practice, Saturday, July 31, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

The University of Tulsa's star linebacker from last season is making his NFL debut this season and could be a part of a rising power in the NFL in Arizona.

The Cardinals chose Tulsa native Zaven Collins with the 16th pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft as they look to beef up their defense to match the high-powered Kyler Murray offense.

Collins, who won the Chuck Bednarik, Bronko Nagurski and Lombardi awards last season at TU is expected to see immediate action when the season starts as the leader of the defense.

It's something that I love, and you know, I love having that weight on my shoulders," Collins said as training camp charges ahead.

"I think it's going good so far."

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