On Saturday afternoon at Tropicana Field, the East and West teams took to the collegiate gridiron for what was the last time for many of the participants. Players in the game were hoping to show off their skills to NFL scouts and talent evaluators one last time before the NFL Draft, which takes place in early May.
Representatives from the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins and a number of other teams were all in attendance to watch the all-star game. When the clocks hit zero on the scoreboard, the final score of the Shrine Game was 23-13 with the East team taking home the win.
The East and West teams combined for five interceptions and two fumbles, but there was still some excellent play by members of both squads.
MOST IMPRESSIVEEASTERN ILLINOIS QB JIMMY GAROPPOLOThe Eastern Illinois product was far and away the best quarterback in St. Petersburg this week, and he continued his excellent play on the Saturday. Garoppolo got through his progressions quickly and was fairly accurate throughout the game despite not having a great relationship with many of his receivers. He delivered a laser for a touchdown strike to Coastal Carolina receiver Matt Hazel on a quick slant in the second quarter.
It’s clear that Garoppolo has what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL, because of his solid mechanics, smart decision-making, and accurate arm. After an excellent week in St. Petersburg, Garoppolo will be heading to Mobile, Alabama for the Reese’s Senior Bowl next week, after taking the place of Alabama’s A.J. McCarron who backed out of the competition. PewterReport.com will be covering the event all of next week.
WEST TEXAS A&M DE ETHAN WESTBROOKSWestbrooks had a monster game, chalking up two sacks and a forced fumble. On his first sack, Westbrooks used an edge rush to get around Nebraska’s Jeremiah Sirles for the sack on Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees. He later punched out a ball from Air Force running back Anthony LaCoste’s hands, which was recovered and scored for a touchdown.
At 6-foot-4, 263 pounds, Westbrooks has nice size and showed he can make an impact at the Shrine Game. He could have put himself on the map as a late-round draft pick.
ARIZONA STATE SAFETY ALDEN DARBYDarby had a spectacular game on Saturday, recording two interceptions on quarterbacks Jordan Lynch and Jeff Mathews. His first interception came on a pass over the middle where Darby stepped up and made the play in front of the receiver who was running a crossing route.
Perhaps the best play of the day came in the fourth quarter when Darby showed off his range by running from his center field position all the way across the field to the sideline where he intercepted the Jeff Mathews throw. Darby was a candidate for defensive MVP, which ended up going to Ethan Westbrooks.
NORTH CAROLINA SAFETY TRE BOSTON Boston was always around the ball and made a boatload of tackle at or near the line of scrimmage. This was huge for Boston because he had question marks about his tackling coming into the game. Boston is a draftable prospect, likely on day three of the draft, with upside because of his athleticism at the safety position. MOST DISAPPOINTING NORTHERN ILLINOIS QB JORDAN LYNCHA player that had a lot to prove on Saturday was Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch, who ended up struggling mightily at the Shrine Game.
Early in the first quarter, Lynch tried to fit the ball into a tight window but ended up throwing an interception to Arizona State’s Alden Darby. Lynch threw an awful interception later on in the first quarter, a pass that was telegraphed by Arizona cornerback Shaquille Richardson. It was an ill-advised throw, and the kind of play that offensive coordinators hate to see their players make. The Northern Illinois product didn’t look like an NFL quarterback on Saturday.
BAYLOR TE JORDAN NAJVARBaylor tight end Jordan Najvar came into the week with little to no buzz, but after a good week of practice he’s put himself on the radar. However, on Saturday did not put together a great performance. Najvar was bullied near the line of scrimmage for most of the game. The tight end struggled to release off the line of scrimmage and was thrown off by linebackers that smacked him within five yards.
Najvar did make an excellent catch on a 31-yard throw down the seam from Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, but outside of that he had a disappointing game. The Baylor tight end had a nice week at the Shrine game, but he doesn’t look like anything more than an undrafted free agent.
USC OT KEVIN GRAF Graf couldn’t handle the speed rush by West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke, who got to the quarterback for the sack. For a big offensive lineman, Graf has nice athleticism but it doesn’t seem to show up in games. He was slow in his kick-slide and it allowed defensive lineman to get the first chance at leverage. Graf looks like a late-round pick at best.
–Alex Morales contributed to this report
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