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Wharton gets close look at offensive talent in East-West Shrine Bowl

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The East-West Shrine Bowl was an exciting time for Washington Commanders assistant offensive line coach Travelle Wharton. He got the chance to be around dozens of prospects and teach them as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft.

But as offensive coordinator for the East Team, Wharton had the unique opportunity to get a close look at a slew of offensive talent as the Commanders prepare for their first draft with a new identity. Wharton's team ultimately could not come back from a 19-0 deficit in a 25-24 defeat, but there were some players who showed off some traits Wharton looks for.

"Who plays fast," Wharton told senior vice president of media and content Julie Donaldson on what he wanted to see from his players. "Play fast, physical and do your thing that you've been doing…forever."

It makes sense that those are the qualities Wharton values as a coach. They echo much of what head coach Ron Rivera also prized in players, and it's part of what he preaches to his roster.

Washington's staff also values resiliency, which their players often showed during the 2021 season, when they bounced back from a four-game losing streak by winning four straight, and even though injuries and COVID-19 cases derailed a playoff run, Rivera and his coaches often commended them fighting until the end of games.

Wharton and the East were in a similar situation last week, when they were down 19-0 with seven minutes left in the third quarter. It was because of the East's passing attack, led by Brown's EJ Perry, that the team was able to climb out of that deficit.

Three plays after the West's Jelani Woods caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Skylar Thompson, Perry hit South Dakota State's Pierre Strong for a 65-yard score.

Perry, who completed 13-of-18 passes for 241 yards, was the winner of the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League's top offensive player. He passed and rushed for a combined 3,435 yards and 30 touchdowns in 2021.

Perry's targets were just as impressive. Perry threw for two more touchdowns in the contest, both of which went to Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Samori Toure. Toure, a senior out of Portland, Oregon, caught 46 passes for 898 yards in 2021, but his best season came in 2019, when he totaled nearly 1,500 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

Leading the East in receiving yards was Tulsa's Josh Johnson with four catches for 98 yards. The 5-foot-11, 171-pound wideout from Little Rock, Arkansas, had something of a breakout season for the Golden Hurricane, getting more yards in 2021 (1,114) than he did in his previous three seasons combined.

While it wasn't enough to pull out a win, the East's performance was still impressive. It out-gained the West through the air by nearly 100 yards, and it averaged nearly 10 yards per pass attempt compared to the West's 5.9.

The Commanders have been dedicated to building a sustainable, winning culture in Washington since Rivera took over in 2020. They pick 11th in this year's draft, giving them a unique opportunity to find a player who can bring an immediate impact to the team.

The Commanders have had success finding late-round gems over the years, though, and many of them have emerged as starters early in their careers. Every bit of first-hand information helps when finding those players, and it's safe to assume that Wharton will have plenty of positive evaluation from his time in Las Vegas.

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