The 2016 version of the East-West Shrine game provided plenty of action, more so than last year, but as a contest was fairly one-sided. The West team led the whole way through and ran out comfortable 29-9 winners over the East. Of course, the score itself isn’t quite as important as the individual performances by these NFL hopefuls looking to stand out and show what they can do to scouts and other NFL personnel. Most of that work was done during the week in the practice sessions, but several really helped themselves during the game, and a few unfortunately hurt themselves. We look at a few of each here.
QB Vernon Adams, Oregon – Adams was a worthy recipient of the game’s offensive MVP. Each quarterback saw only limited snaps, but the former Eastern Washington and Oregon QB hit on 6 of 9 passes, 3 going for touchdowns. His 191 yards including a long bomb down the field to Purdue’s Danny Anthrop which was perfectly timed for a 93 yard touchdown catch and run. He did an even better job in his red zone scores, including using his eyes to move defenders before finding his targets for the scores. Adams looked in control, comfortable with the new offense he was executing, and showcased good ability in the pocket. When the throw wasn’t there to be made, he made the most of his legs, including a well-timed run for a first down when all his receivers were covered. The knock on Adams, has been, and will continue to be, his size. At only 5ft 10 & ½ and with very small hands, he is still going to be marked down for those lack of measurables. However, while the more heralded and highly graded Sudfeld and Doughty struggled, it was Adams who looked more polished and pro-ready. EDGE Victor Ochi, Stony Brook – The star of the game for me was Ochi, who terrorised the West team’s left tackles all game long. Ochi had been one of the stand outs in practices over the week, as highlighted in our Shrine game preview, and he delivered on that during the game itself. For much of the game he was matched up with Alex Lewis who had a nice week himself, but the Nebraska tackle could not handle the power and non-stop motor of Ochi, who had him beat on practically every snap, including for an early sack on Nate Sudfeld. Ochi is shorter than ideal for a pass rusher at 6ft 1, 244 lbs, but has unusually long arms for someone his size, which negates height questions, and his athleticism and strength are so effective regardless. As one person rightly pointed out in a discussion, one of the best pass rushers in the league Elvis Dumervil is only 5ft 11 tall. Ochi was the big winner of the day in making money for himself. WR Geronimo Allison, Illinois – Two of the touchdowns thrown by Vernon Adams went to the rangy 6ft 3 receiver from Illinois, who built on a strong week with a productive outing. Allison made himself an available target early and often, finding space to work in consistently. Scouts will also love the fact that he made a number of solid blocks in the run game too. Allison is a talented athlete with nice deep speed to go with his tall frame, giving him good physical traits to work with at the next level. A two year player for the Illini after transferring from community college, Allison is a little raw, particularly in his route running, but has excellent hands to make difficult grabs in tight coverage and on the sidelines. It was good to see him be effective in the red zone too, as his touchdown total in this game nearly matched his total for the entire 2015 season, in which he had just the 3! S Michael Caputo, Wisconsin – Though Ochi stood out as the best defender, the actual defensive MVP award ended up going to Caputo for his two interceptions. Not much had been written about the experienced Badgers safety over the course of the week, but his highlight plays in the game to contribute to the West team’s win will have earned him some attention. Throughout his college career, Caputo has been about thumping hits in run support, at his best moving down field and taking down ball carriers. Making plays in coverage and in the pass game have not been a big part of his contributions, so it was a boost for him to do so here, and perhaps get scouts to go back and re-look at the game film. However, Caputo is a bit of a limited athlete, who lacks ideal speed and movement to stick with receivers and cover a large range of the field on a regular basis. Wisconsin used Caputo almost as an extra linebacker for much of his snaps. Ultimately he could still go undrafted as a result. TE Kivon Cartwright, Colorado State – This is a pretty poor tight end class for the 2016 draft, so teams are really on the lookout for late round gems out of a thin group to choose from. In particularly, one who can prove an effective receiving threat are of the highest value. Cartwright did a nice job making himself available to make a couple plays, most notably with the first offensive touchdown of the day, collecting an 11 yard pass to the end zone from Vernon Adams. Cartwright had been a promising looking tight end a few years ago, with a strong 2013 season as one of now Saints QB Garrett Grayson’s favourite targets. His 2014 season was ended though in the first game with an ankle injury, and after being granted a medical redshirt to return this past season, he didn’t have quite the same rapport with the new young quarterback under center, as the Rams offense as a whole wasn’t quite as productive. The 6ft 3, 240 lb tight end isn’t the biggest, but is a smooth runner with nice hands to be a solid target over the middle. He might have helped earn himself a late round pick, and it was certainly a good reminder of the promise he had shown earlier in his college career.
QB Brandon Doughty, Western Kentucky – Doughty has put up some incredible numbers the past couple seasons for the Hilltoppers, including passing for over 5,000 yards in 2015 with 48 touchdowns to just 9 interceptions. This was a great opportunity for him to show that he can be effective out with the fairly simplistic offense he ran that was conducive to big numbers in the pass game. It’s clear from the game film that regardless of the system he ran, the deep ball touch and accuracy was impressive. However, it was a difficult outing in the Shrine Game for Doughty, who instead raised more questions than he answered. He completed 11 of 17, and threw a pair of interceptions, one of which was taken back all the way for a long pick 6 defensive score. Of those he did complete, many were to the comfort of his former WKU teammate Jared Dangerfield, which felt a little bit safe to do. It’s difficult to be too hard on him though, as a bit of a learning curve was always to be expected. When Doughty is drafted, it won’t be with the intention of him starting anytime soon in his pro career, but to develop him within a pro system that could pay off a little down the line. The performance did underline though the work that is to be done. OT Alex Lewis, Nebraska – Take the week as a whole, and it’s stock up for Lewis, who did really well in the practices sessions, including winning more than he lost in one-on-one drills. But it was stock down in terms of the game itself, whereas mentioned, Lewis found himself getting manhandled by a relentless Victor Ochi. Lewis was kept off balance constantly, and found himself chasing to try and recover from early beats, getting embarrassed on a couple occasions. It was difficult to pick out any snaps in which Lewis was able to comfortably block his assignment. The Colorado transfer has the size and length looked for that will earn him a day 3 draft selection, but he needs to improve his handling of tricky speed rushers off the edge, as there are a lot of them in the NFL.