2016 East West Shrine Game Recap (Defense)

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The 2016 East West Shrine game was last Saturday and kicked off the beginning of the NFL draft season. Most Shrine game players won’t end up in the NFL but there are a handful of participants every year who go on to have solid NFL careers.

There are too many NFL players that are Shrine game alums to list, but to give you an idea how much talent has come through this game, here are some Pro Bowl players who played in past Shrine games: Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Cameron Jordan, Kam Chancellor, Greg Jennings, Emmanuel Sanders, T.J. Ward, Altarruan Verner, Terron Armstead and Josh Norman.

In the last few seasons, there have been plenty of useful players like Alfred Morris, Micah Hyde, Allen Hurns, Crockett Gilmore, Justin Britt, Zac Stacy, Jimmy Garopppolo, Preston Brown, David Andrews, Jake Ryan, David Perry, and Bene Benwikere.

Unfortunately the Bears haven’t had as much luck with players from the Shrine game. They have drafted a few of them, like S Brandon Harden (3rd round 2013) and TE Evan Rodriguez (4th round 2013) who were released within two years and signed UDFAs like DeDe Lattimore (2104) and Ryan Groy (2014) who were off the roster within a year. The Bears have been able to find at least two useful players from the Shrine game in the last two seasons in slot corner Bryce Callahan and starting left tackle Charles Leno Jr.

Here is my list of 2016 Shrine game defensive players who helped their draft stock either during the week of practice or Saturday’s game and how they could help the Bears in 2016.

Defensive Line:

By the end of the 2015 season the Bears were starting three players that they signed off the street during the season (Gaston, Scruggs, Unrein). Injuries decimated the Bears d-line and highlighted their lack of depth at the position. Both Eddie Goldman and Ego Feguson will be back next season, but the Bears don’t have any high-upside players on the d-line besides those two.

They could re-sign Jarvis Jenkins and both Unrein and Gaston played well when given a chance, but they definitely need more talent at the position. I’d bet the Bears use at least one of their nine draft picks on a defensive linemen and there were some good ones at the Shrine game.

Javon Hargrave, South Carolina St – Was unblockable most of the week in practice and disruptive during the game as well. Hargrave is a DII prospect who dominated the last two seasons (2-time MEAC defensive player of the year) and proved this week that he could dominate at the FBS level as well. Over the last two seasons he put up a ridiculous 29 sacks and 44 tackles for loss. Hargrave’s best fit at the next level would be as a 3-tech DT, but he is strong and athletic enough to possibly play the 5-tech in the Bears hybrid 3-4.

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Aziz Shittu, Stanford – Former 5-star recruit who never quite lived up to his potential in college, but was a solid starter when healthy enough to play. Shittu has the size (6’3 | 280), athleticism, and power to play the 5-tech in the Bears scheme, though he played inside more often in college. He played inside during the Shrine game as well and was a force against the run, holding his own against multiple double-teams and making a few stops near the line of scrimmage.

Ebuka Onyemata, Manitoba – Interesting Canadian prospect who has only played five years of organized football but was Canada’s top D-linemen last year (Metras Trophy) and has the size (6’4 | 304) to play in the NFL. Onyemeta showed impressive movement skills both off the edge and inside during practice and then put a brutal hit on Michigan QB Jake Ruddock during the game and also had a half-sack. He’s probably too raw to contribute right away, but give DC Vic Fangio a couple years to work with this guy and the Bears could have a late round gem.

Anthony Zettel, Penn St – His quickness off the ball stood out during the Shrine game. It didn’t result in any counting stats, but Zettel was constantly disruptive. He was in the backfield often, sometimes impacting plays but other times taking himself out of the play by being too aggressive. Reports from practice mention the same burst off the ball and also his ability to shed blocks and his non-stop motor. Zettel has potential to be a 5-tech in the NFL and could be a good fit for the Bears scheme.

Dean Lowry, Northwestern – Prototype 5-tech build (6’6 | 290) and was lauded by Shrine coaches all week for his non-stop motor and effort level. Lowry lacks ideal arm length, but has enough power to drive tackles back in 1-1 match-ups and hold up against double teams when needed. Lowry’s isn’t explosive, but sets the edge well against the run, diagnoses plays quickly, and is fast enough to chase down QBs for hustle sacks.