New England Patriots

New England Patriots

While the actual Shrine Bowl game is still to be played on Thursday night, the bulk of the evaluation is done during the practices, which took place Saturday through Tuesday. The Patriots, coaching the West team, got an up-close look at a handful of players, some potential first-round picks and others who are expected to go on Day 3.

After drafting four players from the Shrine Bowl last year – and signing two more as UDFAs – there’s a good chance they’ll draw heavily from the game again. They worked with a number of players who not only had strong weeks, but fit roles the team projects to need to fill this offseason as well. Here’s a look at who those players are.


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  • In terms of players who stood out who fill needs for the Patriots, Florida safety Trey Dean highlights the list. Dean was all over the field this week, with his multiple interceptions leading the way in a pretty consistent overall performance.

    If Devin McCourty retires, the Patriots will need a replacement at the deep safety position. Dean is a true combo safety, nearly splitting his snaps a clean 50/50 between deep and box safety last year. The Patriots played him deep plenty this week and he looked natural, coming away with multiple interceptions in team drills. His versatility (he also played some as a slot cornerback) and size (6-foot-2, 211 pounds) could also allow the Patriots to get creative positioning him and Kyle Dugger around the defense.

    Dean wasn’t the only player the Patriots got a long look at playing at deep safety. Jordan Howden from Minnesota also spent time in that spot in the Patriots’ defense.

  • Dean and Howden weren’t the only players who stood out in the secondary. At cornerback, Myles Brooks of Louisiana Tech won the week. He fits the mold of the bigger cornerback the Patriots should be looking for this offseason at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and plays with every bit of his frame. Working against a roster with mostly bigger, more physical receivers, he held his own.

    Up front, there were two linebackers who noticeably fit into roles the Patriots will likely be looking to fill this offseason. Adding an athletic inside linebacker should be on the to-do list, with Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson both free agents. If the Patriots want to fill that role in the draft, Utah linebacker Mo Diabate is a logical target. Diabate showed his sideline-to-sideline ability throughout the week, and was also tasked with making defensive calls when on the field. He also seemed to have a very Patriots-like personality when speaking with him early in the week.

    On the edge, the Patriots may find themselves looking to get a year ahead of building depth with Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings both pending free agents. Even in years they’re stocked at the position, it’s not uncommon to invest a draft pick there anyway. This week, they got a close look at Tyrus Wheat from Mississippi State. Wheat made plays as an edge setter in the run, pass rusher, and even showed up a couple of times in coverage.

  • On offense, Zay Flowers was the star of the West team as the highest projected prospect in this game. With his draft stock somewhat set he only practiced one of the four days, but his performance certainly lived up to expectations.

    With Flowers spending most of the week on the sidelines, Demario ‘Pop’ Douglas from Liberty got a ton of work in the slot for the West team. With that being a crucial role in Bill O’Brien’s offenses and Jakobi Meyers a pending free agent, this is certainly an area the Patriots could be looking, and Douglas was the best slot receiver on the field.

    His combination of short area quickness and speed was on display early an often, especially when it came to route running. He ran one deep post route so cleanly during a one-on-one on the second day of practice, the cornerback covering him fell flat on his face as Douglas snapped out of his break.

  • Oregon State’s Jack Colletto also stood out as a pass catcher. That was a bit of a surprise development, given his background. Colletto won the Paul Hornung Award in 2022 for being the most versatile player in college football – the same recognition given to Marcus Jones last year. Colletto played mainly fullback and linebacker for the Beavers, but only caught three passes.

    Coming into the week, Colletto said he was hoping to get work as a tight end so he could show teams his ability as a pass catcher. he even compared his ideal role in the NFL to guys like Kyle Juszczyk and Taysom Hill.

    It looked like Colletto reached that goal. He was heavily involved in the passing game all week, lining up both as a fullback but also as an inline tight end. His hands were very reliable, which isn’t always the case for players who don’t come from a pass-catching background. He got in some work as a defensive end as well this week.

  • Minnesota running back Mo Ibrahim also said at the beginning of the week that one of his goals in Las Vegas was to show teams he can be a threat in the passing game. Ibrahim was a downhill threat for the Gophers rushing for over 1,600 yards last year, which ranked third in the nation. However, he caught just 22 passes in four years as a starter. When speaking to him, he regularly used the term “well rounded” when describing what he wanted coaches to know about his game.

    Like Colletto, Ibrahim looked much more developed as a pass catcher than he did when the college football season ended two months ago. In particular, he route-running ability was better than expected.

    Finally on offense, UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, or ‘DTR’ was another player that seems to have made strides since his season ended. Thompson-Robinson’s delivery when throwing was noticeably more compact and he had good zip on the ball. Given his high football IQ, multiple years as a starter, diverse skillset, and connection to Chip Kelly with the Bruins, he’s a logical target for the Patriots late on Day 3 or as a UDFA if they want to add another dynamic to their QB room.

    Then there was the special teams star of the week, Oklahoma punter Michael Turk. When Turk punted the ball, the sound of it coming off his foot caught everybody’s attention. He regularly clocked hang times over 5 seconds, and was pinpoint on the directional punting drills. Turk spent a lot of time with Patriots special teams coaches Cam Achord and Joe Houston, so look for him to be on their radar.

  • Honorable mentions

    Sep 17, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (1) pressures South Florida Bulls quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 17, 2022; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Florida Gators linebacker Brenton Cox Jr. (1) pressures South Florida Bulls quarterback Gerry Bohanon (11) during the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Here’s a look at some other players that didn’t quite crack the top 10, but are still worth knowing about…

    –WR Justin Shorter, Florida (Big-body receiver, looked excellent in contested-catch situations)
    –WR Jake Bobo, UCLA (Big-body slot receiver, contributed on special teams)
    –OT Connor Galvin, Baylor (Best tackle in attendance for either team)
    –DE Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh (Disciplined edge rusher)
    –OLB Truman Jones, Harvard (Showed up in coverage and on special teams)
    –OLB Brenton Cox, Florida (Powerful, crafty, and versatile pass rusher – character concerns after being dismissed from both Georgia and Florida)
    –CB Eric Scott Jr., Southern Miss (Big corner, was competitive in 1-on-1s, got one-on-one time with Bill Belichick)
    –S Christian Izien, Rutgers (Patriots used him as one of their top free safeties, got one-on-one time with Belichick)

  • East team

    Nov 19, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Moro Ojomo (98) rushes Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) as offensive lineman Dominick Puni (67) blocks during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 19, 2022; Lawrence, Kansas, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Moro Ojomo (98) rushes Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) as offensive lineman Dominick Puni (67) blocks during the second half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots also got a chance to get a close look at players on the East team. Here’s who stood out on that roster…

    –CB Kei’Trel Clark, Louisville (Most dominant player on the East team. Plays physical, well above his size and has good ball skills)
    –DT Moro Ojomo, Texas (Unblockable in both run and pass game, high motor)
    –DL Dante Stills, West Virginia (Athletic, violent pass-rushing defensive tackle, shades of Christian Barmore)
    –LB Anfernee Orji, Vanderbilt (Regularly in the right place at the right time, had command of the defense)
    –IOL Jon Gaines, UCLA (High-level footwork, positional versatility)
    –LB Yasir Abdullah, Louisville (Energetic pass rusher, deep toolbox)
    –S Gervarrius Owens, Houston (True free safety, showed great instincts on the back end)
    –S AJ Finley, Ole Miss (Ball-hawking free safety, had three interceptions in one practice)
    –TE Blake Whiteheart, Wake Forest (Move tight end with great willingness as a blocker and disciplined route runner)
    –TE Daniel Barker, Michigan State (Well-rounded tight end)

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.

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