New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The four practices of the 2023 Shrine Bowl are in the books with the conclusion of Tuesday’s field trip to the Las Vegas Raiders’ practice facility. Throughout the week, the Patriots’ coaching staff led the West team.

While the Shrine Bowl is an ‘all-star game’ for college players, the Patriots coaching staff hardly treated it like such. Even prior to the first day of practice, when players had just had meetings with the staff, a number of them spoke about how it was hardly an all-star game environment. Throughout the week they credited the competitive nature of the Patriots’ staff, and the professional level of intensity at which the practices were held. That includes USC running back Travis Dye, whose comments can be heard at the end of the clip below.

  • On the individual level, that tone of intensity was set by Bill Belichick on Day 1. Belichick spent the early portion of that practice coaching quarterbacks and wide receivers when they were in positional drills.

    As the week went on, Belichick’s presence was still felt but on a more player-to-player basis (except the third day, when he wasn’t seen on the field). Throughout the sessions, Belichick from time-to-time would pull players aside for one-on-one hands on coaching. That included running backs, wide receivers, cornerbacks, safeties, pass rushers, and even special teamers. He spent one team punt period talking to each gunner as they made their way back up the field after a rep, discussing their technique on the previous play.

  • Another coach who helped set that tone early on was Bill O’Brien. After having his hire as offensive coordinator officially announced on Thursday, O’Brien took the field Saturday with purpose. Along with Belichick, he worked early on with quarterbacks and receivers but stayed with that group for the majority of the session as Belichick went elsewhere.

    O’Brien’s enthusiasm at the event stood out. Getting up close with the quarterbacks in particular, he wasn’t afraid to point out the little things that might get overlooked in the typical all-star game setting. Las Vegas CBS affiliate 8 News caught a conversation between him, Belichick, and UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson going over the finer points of timing on slant routes.

    That was all we saw from O’Brien, as he wasn’t spotted back out on the field after the first day. Still, that kind of detail at the quarterback position is something that probably feels refreshing for fans in New England – and O’Brien himself seemed refreshed as well.

  • Belichick and O’Brien were two of five coaches from the Patriots’ staff listed as being in ‘supervisory roles’ for the week, along with Jerod MayoSteve Belichick, and Joe Judge. Mayo and Belichick, who were both only at the early days of practice, both seemed to be relatively hands off. They were typically standing behind the action for a overall view, similar to the positioning Bill Belichick usually takes during training camp.

    Judge worked briefly with the offensive line on the first day, but for the remainder of that day and the next two was also in what seemed to be an observation-like role. He wasn’t on the field for the fourth day in Henderson.

    Further down the coaching staff, there seemed to be more overlap than the initial coaching layout suggested. For instance, Vinnie Sunseri was the Patriots’ running backs coach during the season, but was assigned to wide receivers this week. Still, he met with at least one running back prospect for a ‘get to know you’ draft evaluation sort of conversation.

    Even on the field, guys moved around. Mike Pellegrino is normally the Patriots’ secondary coach, but was a co-defensive coordinator along with Brian Belichick this week, as well as the defensive line coach. He worked mostly with the line, but spent a good amount of time with each defensive position. Same goes for Brian Belichick, who was assigned to work with the linebackers.

  • On special teams, 2022 special teams assistant coach Joe Houston was the special teams coordinator for the week, and ran all the drills as expected. At the same time though, last year’s special teams coordinator Cam Achord was very active in coaching players up on an individual basis.

    Offensively, Ross Douglas looked very comfortable working with the quarterbacks, both with Belichick and O’Brien but mostly on his own throughout the week as both the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Douglas is seen by some on the outside as a rising star of the Patriots’ coaching staff, having gone from a defensive quality control coach in 2021 to the assistant wide receivers coach last year. He was also heavily involved in the Patriots’ pro day circuit last year.

    Overall, the week seemed like a learning experience for everybody involved, as head coach for the week Troy Brown spoke about after Tuesday’s practice. “It’s been great. Some challenges, but it’s been great,” Brown said reflecting on the full week of practices. “There’s a lot of things I didn’t know that head coaches have to take care of or deal with but it’s been a good experience for me to be here and be the head coach of the West team.”

  • “I would say that, without the great assistant coaches, it would have been nearly impossible to come here and coach with people I didn’t know,” Brown continued. “That’s another valuable lessons learned for me as well.”

    Brown also touched on the value of coaches working with positions they hadn’t had as much experience with in the past. “It’s an uncomfortable situation for all of us,” Brown noted. “And I guess that’s the purpose of it too, like we’ve got to get out of our comfort zones and challenge ourselves. So I know for me it was great for me to be able to – I was way out of my comfort zone. But like I’ve said, I’ve gotten more comfortable as the week went on and working on the things I need to work on as a coach, and they’ve [the assistants] done the same things.”

    In total, the week at the Shrine Bowl probably didn’t offer a full look at what the 2023 Patriots’ coaching staff will look like. But it did shed some light as to the shifting positions of those at the top of the ‘coaching depth chart,’ and who the team sees as risers below them.

  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 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

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