2017 East-West Shrine Game Preview
Very rarely (in recent history) is the Annual East-West Shrine Game littered with headliners as evidenced by the respective 2016 rosters. But when it comes to talent, it doesn’t matter where you played or whether you were a household name. If you can play, NFL scouts/teams will find you. Case in point arguably the most noteworthy participant in last year’s contest was interior offensive lineman Graham Glasgow of the Michigan Wolverines, a former walk-on. The All Big-Ten honoree was so impressive during the Shrine Game practices that he parlayed his performance into an invitation to the Senior Bowl which took place one week after the Shrine Game. Better yet Glasgow heard his name called on Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft as he was selected by the Detroit Lions in the 3rd Round. Then, Glasgow proceeded to start 11 games during his rookie season in the NFL as part of an improved Lions’ offensive line. However, Glasgow wasn’t the only Shrine Game participant that saw meaningful snaps during their rookie season.
Javon Hargrave (PIT) – The MEAC’s finest out of South Carolina State, Hargrave has quickly become the starting pivot man in the Pittsburgh Steeler’s odd man front; despite posting whopping sack totals (29.5) in his last two collegiate seasons thanks to sheer power and rare first step quickness for an interior defender the young man has bought into being the primary space eater in the Steelers’ defensive front. A strong showing during last year’s East-West Shrine Game vaulted Hargrave into Day 2 of the 2016 NFL Draft as the Pittsburgh Steelers selected him in the third round. Hargrave has become a key contributor to an improving Pittsburgh defense, a team missing a consistent force at nose tackle since the days of Casey Hampton.
Geronimo Allison (GB) – If you’ve watched the run the Green Bay Packers have been on led by Aaron Rodgers you will probably recognize Allison’s name. Well Allison found himself on the “CPGM Radar” after he posted a 6/83/2 line during last year’s Shrine Game. The undrafted free agent out of Illinois didn’t test particularly well at the combine and is still fairly raw (didn’t play football during junior and senior years of high school) but when you watch the game tape he consistently made plays despite less than desirable quarterback play. Business as usual for Geronimo at the Shrine Game which likely earned him a spot on the Packers’ roster and subsequently earned him the trust of the aforementioned Rodgers.
De’Vondre Campbell (ATL) – The Atlanta Falcons’ second half swoon in 2015 made it abundantly clear that they needed to add speed and physicality to the defensive side of the ball and they did just that with draft selections of S Keanu Neal, LB Deion Jones and LB Campbell. While Neal and Jones are considered the prized defensive rookie additions the Falcons’ brass saw in Campbell (Minnesota) that he has the physical tools to enjoy an effective and long NFL career with good coaching and experience. He already brings his sideline-to-sideline speed to game day immediately improving the Falcons run defense but after being thrust into the frying pan of an NFL starting lineup and weathering the ups and downs of a rookie season; Campbell has really progressed as his overall awareness and ability to diagnosis what the opposition is doing has improved allowing his athletic gifts to come to the forefront.
Brian Poole (ATL) – The Falcons are entering Championship weekend with a host of young players that figure to make-up a pretty damn good defensive core for years to come and among those players (rookies) is undrafted free agent Brian Poole formerly of the Florida Gators. Poole made a couple of splash plays during last year’s Shrine Game including this pick six and it didn’t go unnoticed. Size and speed/range limitations depressed his draft stock to that of priority free agent but it certainly wasn’t for lack of play-making ability. Routinely around the football due to tremendous instincts, Poole is just a football player. In fact, he is virtually a starter (yet another rookie in Atlanta) as he is the Falcons’ primary slot cornerback and has done a remarkable job at one of the most taxing and challenging positions in football today.
Joe Thuney (NE) – For all of Bill Belichick’s genius he just like every other coach/GM whiffs on draft picks. In fact, I wouldn’t consider drafting a strength of “The Hoodie” but his 2016 third round selection of Joe Thuney who was named to the Pro Football Writers of American’s All-Rookie Team this season was a gem. An experienced and versatile three-year starter at North Carolina State, with room for growth, is coveted in the NFL and Thuney has seamlessly slid into the Patriots’ starting five at guard and has the makings of a 10-year starter in the NFL.
Anthony Brown (DAL) – Brown’s game film at Purdue covers the full spectrum, the good, the bad and the ugly. Good size, fantastic speed, athleticism, functional strength, great ball skills (19 career INTs) but technically flawed and routinely on the wrong end of a touchdown. In the 6th round I’d say he was worth the “gamble” and on the strength of last year’s Shrine Game and Scouting Combine performance Brown found himself on the Cowboys’ roster. Injuries to Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick thrust the Shrine Game participant into meaningful snaps throughout the season and he held his own. With Claiborne and Brandon Carr’s contracts expiring the young corner could be in for another heavy workload in 2017.
Here are several more 2016 Shrine Game participants making a living in the NFL now:
- Derek Watt (SD/LA)
- Daniel Lasco (NO)
- Briean Boddy-Calhoun (CLE)
- Cody Core (CIN)
- Tajae Sharpe (TEN)
- Justin Burris (NYJ)
- Cre’von Leblanc (CHI)
- Justin Simmons (DEN)
- Romeo Okwara (NYG)
As for the 2017 Shrine Game participants that are of particular interest to me there are a dozen easy including the likes of: Trey Hendrickson and De’Veon Smith. But the moral of this particular story is to pay attention to the names you don’t know just as much if not more so than those you do recognize.
CPGM’s Front Office will be in attendance so don’t hesitate to say “hi.”