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Travelle Wharton, Ben Jacobs, Jeff Zgonina named to 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl coaching staffs


Washington Football Team assistant offensive line coach Travelle Wharton, assistant special teams coach Ben Jacobs and assistant running defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina have been named as coaches for the 2022 East-West Shrine Bowl.

Wharton will be the offensive coordinator for the East team, while Jacobs will be the special teams coordinator for the West team. Zgonina will be the defensive line coach for the West team.

Wharton, who has been part of head coach Ron Rivera's staffs with Washington and the Carolina Panthers since 2018, made his coaching debut at the University of South Carolina in 2015, where he started as an offensive quality control coach before being promoted to the offensive line coach midway through the season.

Wharton later with the Panthers' staff prior to the 2017 season in offseason workouts and training camp as part of the NFL Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. He joined the staff as the assistant offensive line coach the following season.

"I love his approach and attitude to things," Rivera said. "He's very soft-spoken, but don't mistake that for weakness. Just understand that he knows what he's talking about."

Wharton's knowledge of the game doesn't come as a surprise to Rivera. When he became the Panthers' head coach in 2011, Wharton was already a consummate part of the team's offensive line with seven years of experience. Wharton anchored the group on Carolina's top three seasons of rushing in franchise history in 2009 (2,498), 2008 (2,437) and 2011 (2,408). Carolina ranked third in the NFL in rushing in all three of those seasons. The Panthers averaged 5.41 yards per carry in 2011, a mark that led the NFL and set a franchise record.

As a member of Washington's coaching staff, Wharton helped offensive guard Brandon Scherff reach back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and a First Team All-Pro selection in 2020. Scherff is one of several Washington offensive linemen who have benefitted from Wharton's tutelage. Charles Leno Jr. finished the season with Pro Football Focus' second-highest pass-blocking grade among tackles, while Sam Cosmi received the third-highest overall grade from PFF for rookie offensive tackles.

In terms of guards, Washington had three players -- Scherff, Wes Schweitzer and Ereck Flowers Sr. -- finish in the Top 20 of PFF's overall grades. And despite missing over half the season with injury, Chase Roullier finished the year with PFF's fourth-highest overall grade.

Jacobs, a former linebacker, spent eight seasons as a key contributor on all four phases of special teams, recording 31 special teams tackles and eight tackles on defense in 73 career games played.

Jacobs led or tied for the team high in special teams tackles in two of his seasons (2014 and 2018) with Carolina and helped the Panthers win the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season.

Jacobs helped wide receiver and return specialist DeAndre Carter finished the year with 904 kickoff return yards, 134 punt return yards and his first-career touchdown. Not only was Carter's kickoff return yardage a career-high, but it was also the second-most among all returners in 2021.

In 2017, Jacobs played a significant role on a coverage unit that finished eighth in opponents' punt return average, allowing just 5.9 yards per return. In 2016, Jacobs was part of a kickoff coverage unit that allowed a league-low 18.1 yards per kickoff return and finished fifth in the NFL with an opponents' average drive start of the 23.7-yard line.

Zgonina has assisted defensive line coach Sam Mills III in developing Washington's talented defensive line, which boasts four first-round picks. In 2020, Washington finished with 47 sacks, which ranked sixth in the league. Then-rookie defensive end Chase Young was voted as the Defensive Rookie of the Year for an exception season that included 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries (one of which was for a touchdown) and four pass breakups to go with 44 tackles.

In 2021, defensive tackle Jonathan Allen had posted career numbers after signing a four-year extension. He finished with nine sacks, which led the team, and had Pro Football Focus' third-highest pass-rushing grade (90.9). His 62 tackles also led his fellow Washington defensive linemen.

During a two-year stint with San Francisco, Zgonina played a major role in the development of DT DeForest Buckner. Buckner increased his sack totals from 3.0 in 2017 to 12.0 in 2018. He finished 2018 No. 3 in the NFL in total sacks among defensive tackles and was selected to his first career Pro Bowl.

In 2016 with the New York Giants, Zgonina was part of a defense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total points allowed per game (17.8) and No. 3 in rushing yards allowed per game (88.6). DT Damon Harrison registered career highs in sacks (2.5) and tackles (86) while working with Zgonina that season.

Zgonina began his coaching career in Houston in 2013 where he worked with All-Pro J.J. Watt. Watt finished the season with 10.5 sacks and was named All-Pro for the second time in his career in 2013.

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