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The 90th annual East-West Shrine Game has a lot of tradition behind it, for the community and the NFL.  For those that don’t think this game is important, please look back to the 2010 game that featured two prominent za'da2014 Seattle Seahawk defenders: safety Kam Chancellor and defensive end Michael Bennett.  Sure these most players probably won’t get selected in the first three rounds of the draft, but many will make NFL teams and perhaps become starters.  I wrote about some of these athletes that stood out to while watching the game on NFL Network.  Here are those players listed alphabetically:

ILB Taiwan Jones, Michigan State

The Big Ten linebacker dropped back into coverage quickly.  He does a good job shedding blockers and plugging up the middle of the field in short yardage situations.  Jones has decent vision anticipating where the ball is heading and is a solid tackler who delivers hard hits.

WR Deon Long, Maryland

The wide out used a double move to create separation and tracked the ball well in the air. Long catches the ball with his fingertips, runs solid routes, and comes back to the ball attacking it in the air.  He showed good sideline awareness and shields the ball from defensive backs.  There were flashes of a mean streak when he blocked downfield and he appeared to enjoy smashing into defenders.

WR Tre McBride, William and Mary

The receiver had a big drop on his first pass target when he couldn’t adjust to a low pass.  He rebounded by catching his next pass in stride showing off his quickness.  McBride looks like a solid possession receiver, who is willing to catch passes in the middle of the field under a heavy threat of contact.  The wide-out used a stiff-arm to keep defenders off his body.  There were a few timing issues with his quarterbacks as he got a long pass knocked out of his hands that got thrown short.

OLB Deiontrez Mount, Louisville

This linebacker seemed to mug tight ends and running backs when he dropped into pass coverage.  He was an effective run-blitzer, filling the hole quickly, and squaring up quickly.  His pass rushing skills were not on display in this game.

ILB Jake Ryan, Michigan

The inside backer flows well to the ball using good vision and anticipation.  Ryan sheds blockers quickly and is a solid tackler.  He breaks on the ball quickly, doing a good job covering the flat and the middle of the field against running backs.  Although the linebacker played better against the run, he can hold his own against the pass.  Who knows, in the right situation, Ryan might be this year’s Chris Borland.

DE/OLB Za’Darius Smith

This Shrine Game MVP certainly earned that honor with immediate burst off the snap of the ball.  He got into the body of whomever tried to block him, knocking them back, and contorted his body throwing his would-be blockers off-balance.  Then finished the play with a sack and/or hits on the quarterback or caused so much disruption that another defender got free to do damage.  Smith was high energy/high effort from the snap of the ball to the whistle. The defender moved up and down the line of scrimmage, and got his hands up to disrupt the passing lane.  He forced plays back inside by cementing the edge against the run.  Smith will also be attending the Senior Bowl, so I will get a chance to see him up close.

WR Darren Waller, Georgia Tech

There was significant hype going into the game with this receiver.  His first pass target went right thru his hands and he had issues gaining separation.  Waller struggled against physical coverage which is a bit surprising at 6′ 5″ and over 230 lbs.  He had some outstanding Shrine practice reports, but failed to distinguish himself in the game.  As a run blocker, Waller did a good job which isn’t surprising considering he came from a run-first offense.  He is a raw prospect who will need time to develop.

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