New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The Patriots’ week of coaching the Shrine Bowl wrapped up Thursday night with the Shrine Bowl game itself. It ended on a high note, with the Patriots-coached West team coming away with a 12-3 win. In terms of scouting, most of that was done during the practice sessions earlier this week. We have a recap of those here.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to take away from the game. And while some performances stand out, what may have been more notable was what was said on the broadcast.

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  • As is the case with most normal game broadcasts, before the Shrine Bowl the announcers meet with the coaching staff to pick up talking points for the game. Over the course of the broadcast, the NFL Network team of announcers mentioned three players that they said the Patriots’ coaching staff spoke highly of during those meetings.

    The most notable player mentioned was Utah linebacker Mo Diabate. According to the broadcast, Diabate was “a guy that was singled out by the West team [Patriots] coaching staff.” They continued by mentioning that Diabate’s versatility is what stood out in particular to the Patriots.

    That evaluation makes a lot of sense. At 6-foot-3, 229 pounds, Diabate has played both inside and outside linebacker. He’s the player who stepped into the role vacated by Devin Lloyd at Utah when Lloyd left for the NFL last season. His tremendous athleticism allows him to compete on all three downs, and he has experience playing the run, rushing the passer and in coverage. All of those skills showed up in practice this week.

    The Patriots have targeted similar players in recent years in Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson. if they’re still looking to fill that role, Diabate is a logical target early on Day 3.

  • Diabate wasn’t the only linebacker singled out by the broadcast. NC State’s Isaiah Moore also drew praise, with the announcers passing along that the Patriots’ coaching staff “couldn’t stop raving” about his performance this week.

    Moore is another logical Patriots fit. A three-year captain for the Wolfpack, he primarily plays in the middle of the defense at 6-foot-2, 236 pounds. He’s primarily a passing-down linebacker, and can contribute both as a rusher and in coverage. In 2022, he made strides as a run-stopper as well. Heading into the Shrine Bowl, he was projected to go undrafted.

  • The third and final player to draw mention from the Patriots’ coaching staff was Southern Mississippi cornerback Eric Scott Jr. This wasn’t the first time that there was an inkling that the Patriots were interested in Scott – he also was one of the players to get one-on-one coaching from Bill Belichick during the week of practice.

    According to the broadcast, Patriots coaches called Scott “the most comfortable corner they had in press coverage” this week. This came as Scott broke up a deep pass intended for projected top-150 pick A.T. Perry.

    Scott is certainly built like a typical Patriots’ boundary cornerback at 6-foot, 197 pounds with 32-inch arms. The fact they feel comfortable with him playing press is also noteworthy. His overall game is still somewhat raw, but he could be worth a late Day 3 or UDFA investment come draft time.

  • The final observation from the Shrine Bowl didn’t have to do with the broadcast itself, but rather a coaching decision by the Patriots’ staff. It came at the quarterback position.

    Normally in All-Star games, all the quarterbacks rotate equally. Especially in a showcase game, it gives each player a chance in the spotlight at a position that regularly has few if any substitutions.

    That wasn’t the case for the Patriots’ squad Thursday night. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson started the game as expected – he far and away appeared to be the best quarterback on either roster during the four practices. He got the first quarter, before turning things over to Tommy DeVito of Illinois in the second quarter.

  • Feb 2, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA;  West quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (2) is pursued by East defensive end BJ Thompson of Stephen F. Austin (96) during the Shrine Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 2, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; West quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (2) is pursued by East defensive end BJ Thompson of Stephen F. Austin (96) during the Shrine Bowl at Allegiant Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

  • However, a red zone interception set the West team up with a two-minute drill situation to close the first half. Instead of sticking with DeVito, the West team went back to DTR for the high-leverage situation. Something similar happened in the second half, with Chase Brice of Appalachian State seeing some time but ultimately being replaced by Thompson-Robinson again in the fourth quarter. In total, Thompson-Robinson finished the game 7-of-17 for 95 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.

    Why did the Patriots give DTR those extra looks, especially in the situations (two-minute drill, end of game) that carry extra weight? Were they trying to win the game, as Matt Groh stated earlier in the week? Were they rewarding his performance in practice by giving him the reps scouts around the league will focus on the most? Or did they want to see for themselves how he handled those higher-leverage situations, as one last hands-on evaluation tool they were benefited with by coaching this game this week?

    A projected seventh-round pick, Thompson-Robinson stands out as one of the most likely quarterback targets for the Patriots in this draft. He’d bring four years of experience as a college starter, a high football IQ, and true dual-threat skill set to the Patriots’ quarterback room. He’d be valuable as a scout-team player, while continuing to develop his game behind the scenes. That development is a process he already seems to be advancing through as evidenced by his throwing mechanics this week. He later said he’s been working with quarterbacks coach Jordan Palmer.

    Diabate, Moore, Scott Jr., and Thompson-Robinson weren’t the only potential Patriots to stand out on Thursday night. Florida safety Trey Dean III (INT, multiple run stuffs) and Michigan kicker Jake Moody (4-for-4 on field goals including two from 51 yards)- both of whom we profiled as players to watch leading into the game – were named MVPs. Dean in particular had a very strong week, and definitely profiles as a future Patriot. Defensive linemen Habakkuk Baldonado of Pittsburgh and Dante Stills of West Virginia and cornerback Nic Jones of Ball State also showed up big on Thursday night, all building off of strong showings during the practice sessions.

  • 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 [email protected].

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