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Patriots to coach East-West Shrine Bowl after drafting 4 participants last year

Related: Planning to return for a 24th season, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick stresses need for improvement

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images

The East-West Shrine Bowl will have a New England Patriots touch this year. The college all-star game, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 2 at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium, will be coached jointly by the Patriots’ and Atlanta Falcons’ staffs.

The Patriots have shown an affinity for Shrine Bowl participants as of late. Just last year, they ended up drafting four participants and picking up two others through rookie free agency.

Wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (2-50), cornerback Jack Jones (4-121), running back Pierre Strong Jr. (4-127) and defensive lineman Sam Roberts (6-200) all played in the game. The same was true for a pair of UDFA signings in defensive tackle LaBryan Ray and quarterback D’Eriq King.

“We are incredibly excited to have the Patriots coaching the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl,” said the game’s director of player personnel and football operations, Eric Galko in a statement. “And they’ve had phenomenal success over the last 25 years finding special talent at the Shrine Bowl, from Tom Brady in 2000 to Tyquan Thornton and three others in last year’s draft.

“They’ll have an opportunity to coach, work with, and deeply learn about our future NFL players during the week, and they’ll greatly benefit from this access as they drive into their draft process.”

New England getting this close a look on a bunch of draft prospects as once is a rare occasion. Under head coach Bill Belichick, the team has never had the opportunity (or willingness) to coach either the Shrine Bowl or the Senior Bowl.

This year is different, though, with the whole staff heading to Las Vegas to work with the currently 108 accepted invites — and counting. What that staff will look like obviously remains to be seen considering that the Patriots might be in line for some personnel turnover in all three phases.

Offensive assistants Matt Patricia and Joe Judge are no locks to resume their current roles after a disappointing season of them leading the unit. Likewise, special teams coordinator Cam Achord appears to be on the hot seat after a bad season highlighted by two kickoff return touchdowns given up in the season-ending 35-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills.

Additionally, linebackers coach Jerod Mayo will again get some opportunities elsewhere. The Cleveland Browns have already requested to interview him for their vacant defensive coordinator position.

Time will tell whether all of them will be part of the Patriots contingent for the Shrine Bowl. If they are, however, they will get to see some of college football’s under-the-radar talent from close up. While not as prominent in the pre-draft process as the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, the game has become a good opportunity to scout mid-to-late-round talent.