The Patriots coach staff led by acting head coach Troy Brown ended their week at the Shrine Bowl in Las Vegas on a high note.
With head coach Bill Belichick observing from the coach's booth, New England's staff led the West team to a 12-3 victory over the East squad thanks to an outstanding defensive performance by Brian Belichick and Mike Pellegrino's unit. The West defense closed things out by forcing a turnover on downs that set up kicker Jake Moody's fourth field goal of the night to make it a two-score game. Moody earned offensive MVP honors, while Florida safety Trey Dean was the MVP on the defensive side of the ball.
Here are six takeaways from the Patriots-West team's win over the East squad in Thursday night's East-West Shrine Bowl:
1. Patriots Coaching Staff Mentions Three Players on Defense to Broadcast Team
According to the NFL Network broadcast, the Patriots coaching staff was raving about three players during prep meetings with the broadcast team: Southern Miss corner Eric Scott Jr., NC State linebacker Isaiah Moore, and Utah linebacker Mo Diabate. We spoke at length about Diabte and a little bit on Scott on Catch-22. Diabate is an athletic, versatile linebacker who took over for Devin Lloyd in the middle of the Utes' defense last season. A solid pro comparison for him would be Pats linebacker Mack Wilson. As for Scott, he has traits to play in a press-man system and could be the next late-round or UDFA find for New England at the position.
Moore was added late to the roster and didn't stand out during live practice viewings. However, after reviewing the practice film, you see an impressive ability to diagnose plays against the run. He made a great play in coverage during the game, where he carried the tight end up the seam to break up the pass. Moore was also a three-time team captain for the Wolfpack. Take note.
2. Shrine Week Standouts CB Nic Jones, S Trey Dean, and DE Haba Baldonado Continue to Improve Draft Stocks
We've been raving all week about Ball State's Nic Jones and Florida safety Trey Dean, so it was cool to see them take what we saw at practice to the game. Jones's footwork, cover talent to mirror receivers in man coverage, and breaks on the ball with above-average length are coveted traits for New England. He also made up for a holding call that wiped out an interception by picking off a pass later on as a cover-two corner in the flat, where he fell underneath the crosser.
As for the game's defensive MVP, the ball finds Dean everywhere he goes. The Florida safety showed in the game how he can aggressively attack the line of scrimmage in run support, play in the slot or second level of the defense, and be a ball magnet as a deep safety. Dean's versatility, play demeanor, and ability to find the football scream Patriots safety, and it helps that he balled out on their squad.
Lastly, Pittsburgh's Haba Baldonado has a great story and is a good football player. Baldonado is from Rome, Italy, and only played one year of high school football in the United States. Despite being inexperienced, Baldonado has an impressive feel for the game and is an explosive athlete. He logged two quarterback pressures and a TFL on Thursday night, closing the game with a great T/E stunt that forced an incomplete pass on fourth down. Baldonado has a Patriot-like skill set.
3. West Team and Former UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson Gets Heavy Workload
Most of the reps under center for the West team went to UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who impressed scouts as a passer in Vegas. DTR has been working with throwing coach Jordan Palmer, leading to more velocity on his throws. The Pats coaching staff also put DTR back in the game for the two-minute drill to end the first half. He didn't lead a scoring drive, but he did throw a hail mary over 60 yards in the air.
Thompson-Robinson made great throws over the middle of the field, especially off play-action, where we saw some Patriots staples. Above, the West team ran play-action from the gun, and DTR threw with anticipation while the pocket was collapsing to throw the glance route open in the second window on the other side of the linebacker. Thompson-Robinson is a great runner, flashing his elusiveness on Thursday night. But he improved his draft stock as a thrower.
4. West Squad and Former Michigan Kicker Jake Moody Flashes Potential
Due to the setup on the practice fields at UNLV, we didn't see Moody much in practice. Our only brief viewing was inside the Raiders practice facility on the final day of practice, so Thursday night's game was Moody's job interview. The Michigan kicker passed the test by drilling all three field goals, including two 51-yarders, and had two touchbacks. With Patriots kicker Nick Folk getting up there in age, Moody, who won the Lou Groza Award for the top kicker in the nation for the 2021 season, could be worth a look for New England.
3. Can Stephen F. Austin EDGE BJ Thompson Get a Combine Invite, Please?
Despite being an absolute freak athlete, Thompson still needs to be invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. During workouts at Stephen F. Austin, Thompson put on a show by broad jumping over 11 feet at 6-5, 238 pounds. At that size, Thompson projects as a developmental situational pass-rusher in a small school Josh Uche mold.
Although the tackle prospects at the Shrine Bowl struggled over the last week, check out the get-off from Thompson on a sack during Thursday night's game. Insane first-step explosiveness and a good bend to turn the corner. That's what an 11-foot broad jump looks like on a football field.
6. Cliff Harris Award Winner Caleb Murphy Has His Shrine Bowl Moment
The Cliff Harris Award winner flashed his pass-rushing talent in one-on-ones during practice, which continued in the game. Murphy had an NCAA record 25.5 sacks for Ferris State last season, winning the small college Defensive Player of the Year award. Who won the award for the 2021 season? Patriots sixth-rounder Sam Roberts, who also played in the Shrine Bowl. See where we are going with this?
Murphy's sack came in the two-minute drill for the West squad, where the East defense held them out of scoring territory. Although the initial pressure came from Ikenna Enechukwu, Murphy continued to work on the right tackle to get the quarterback on the ground. Murphy uses power to dent the edge, and we also saw a quick inside counter when tackles overset. Although Ferris State is a division two program, 25.5 sacks in 15 games is absurd.