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7 defensive players and specialists to watch with Patriots coaching at East-West Shrine Bowl

New England’s coaching staff will work at the Shrine Bowl starting this weekend.

South Florida v Florida Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

The New England Patriots coaching staff is back in Las Vegas for the East-West Shrine Bowl this weekend as they will get a first-hand look at a number of draft eligible prospects.

After reviewing potential offensive players the team may be interested in, we now flip to the defensive side of the ball. With Jerod Mayo filling a supervisory role, Mike Pellegrino and Brian Belichick will serve as the teams co-defensive coordinators throughout the week. The majority of New England’s staff will be there as well to handle other duties.

As for potential defensive players and specialist those coaches might have their eye on, let’s take a look.

Defensive line

Habakkuk Baldonado (Pittsburgh): The Pittsburgh defensive end will likely be a late day two or early day three pick. He has size along the edge at 6-foot-5, 260 pounds and impressive athleticism to pair with it. Injuries held Baldonado to nine games this year where he recorded two sacks in 208 pass rush snaps. He posted an impressive 11 sack season in 2021 while playing in 14 games with 407 pass rush snaps — while also impressing in the run game.

Brenton Cox Jr. (Florida): Cox is an interesting prospect as a former Georgia transfer who was then dismissed from the Gators program midway through this season. Listed at 6-foot-5, 253 pounds, the former five-star prospect has the athletic tools to succeed at the next level but will need to be in the right spot after a tumultuous collegiate career. A good first impression with New England’s staff could open the door for a reunion come April.


Mohamoud Diabate (Utah): New England has searched for improved athleticism at linebacker the last few years and Diabate certainly provides such. At 6-foot-4, 222 pounds, Diabate has impressive range and athletic traits. He has proven his ability to get after quarterbacks, but New England will certainly put his work in coverage to the test in Las Vegas.


Myles Brooks (Louisiana Tech): You've likely heard by now that a boundary cornerback with length is a need for the Patriots this offseason, so enter Brooks. The 6-foot-2, 198 pounds cornerback transferred from the FCS level to LA Tech this season and immediately impressed. Brooks was targeted 53 times in 12 games and allowed just 37.7 percent of those passes to be completed. New England will certainly be monitoring how he holds up against higher-end receivers this week, especially as his worst game of the season came against Clemson (allowed five catches, 111 yards, and two touchdowns).


Trey Dean III (Florida): Safety is also a potential need for New England with Devin McCourty’s future in question and Dean has tons of experience and versatility. A five-year starter, Dean began as a cornerback at Florida before moving to safety, where he played in the box before playing deep more the past few years. The experience playing single-high combined with his length (6-foot-3) at the position makes him an intriguing piece for New England’s backend.


K Jake Moody (Michigan): Moody proved to be one of, if not, the best college kicker during his time at Michigan. A two-time All-American that was also the Lou Groza Award winner in 2021 as the best kicker in college football. He recorded a long of 59 yards against TCU this season while connecting on 86 percent of his field goals the last two years. With Nick Folk not getting any younger, New England could find their potential succession plan in Moody.

P Michael Turk (Oklahoma): Besides kicker, punter could be an immediate need for New England after the poor play they received at the position this year and with Jake Bailey’s current grievance. The Patriots will get to work with Michael Turk throughout the week who spent two years at Arizona State before transferring to Oklahoma in 2021. In each of his four collegiate years he earned first-team All-conference. Turk averaged 51.2 yards per punt in 2021 while his career-average ranks near the top of all-time FBS punters.