LAS VEGAS — Troy Brown has a lot on his plate this week in the desert as he serves as head coach of the West squad for Thursday’s Shrine Bowl. That’s nothing new for Brown. He has always lived by the “more-you-can-do” motto.
During a standout 15-year career with the Patriots, Brown earned his bona fides as a receiver/returner but also moonlighted as a defensive back.
This week, he has switched out from his role as New England’s receivers/returners coach to running the whole show. He acknowledged it’s been an eye-opening experience.
“Difficult,” he said with a smile when asked what it’s like to pull a team together in less than a week. “It looks a lot easier on the outside than it is. Even as a coach on the staff, I don’t get to see everything that Bill [Belichick] goes through every week. So it’s a valuable lesson that I’m getting right now.”
Brown has taken a hands-on approach during practices, which he has structured similarly to Patriots sessions.
During Monday’s workout, held in abnormally cold and drizzly conditions — it actually snowed just south of the city in the early morning — Brown’s offense struggled against the defense, which clearly carried the day.
The defense, coordinated by Patriots assistants Mike Pellegrino and Brian Belichick, collected a handful of interceptions during team periods and was stout during a late red-zone drill.
“We’re going to have days like that,” said Brown. “So it was not very impressive offensively. I was proud of the defense out there and the way they played and the way they performed. But offensively, we’ve got a lot of work to do before we play this game.”
Brown’s message to the players was to develop consistent practice habits in order to avoid pitfalls during the season. He added that the change in weather conditions cannot lead to a change in practice performance.
“The guys actually practiced pretty well offensively on Saturday and Sunday, it was just today that was an issue,” said Brown. “I explained to them, ‘This is what it’s going to be like in the league. You’ve got to develop some kind of consistency about yourself, your practice habits, and all those things.’
“And also, you’ve got to perform in different types of weather. This might be rare in Vegas, but this is normal for us in New England, in New York, and in Buffalo and places like that. You’re going to have days like that, and if you can’t play in this kind of weather, then it’s going to be tough on you.”
The star of the day on defense was Florida safety Trey Dean III, collecting a pair of interceptions while providing excellent pass-coverage support. He credited the Patriots coaching staff with preparing him.
“I just had to go out there and prove that I’m the best safety in the country,” he said. “I’ve got a great coaching staff, so I went out there and tried to take advantage of the stuff we were taught in the meeting room.
“And Coach Belichick, he’s the best in the business, and the staff gave us great little pointers and that allowed me to come out here and execute and achieve two picks today.”
A name to remember is Jack Colletto, who won the 2022 Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in college football. To wit: New England’s Marcus Jones was the 2021 recipient.
Colletto was a fullback/linebacker at Oregon State, though he looks like he could handle some tight end duty as well. He ran through the drills with the receivers (with Brown firing passes) and looked like a natural pass catcher.
“Football player,” Colletto said when asked how he likes to be identified.
“Whatever you ask him to do, he’s been trying to do it,” said Brown.
Players of note
▪ Rutgers safety Christian Izien (go ahead and project him to the Patriots), North Carolina State linebacker Drake Thomas, and Ball State cornerback Nic Jones also had interceptions.
▪ UCLA’s Jake Bobo (North Andover) had a nice crossing-route touchdown on a pass from fellow Bruin Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Bobo also made a nifty diving catch on a throw by Illinois’s Tommy DeVito.
▪ Boston College receiver Zay Flowers was not on hand. He also missed Saturday’s practice.
▪ Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell has looked like the most polished of the six signal-callers on the rosters. He has a calm pocket presence and a big arm.
▪ Minnesota QB Tanner Morgan displayed excellent quickness on some broken plays, which are a hallmark of these all-star games because of the minimal amount of practice time.
▪ Oklahoma punter Michael Turk, nephew of longtime NFL punter Matt Turk, has been putting on a show with some moon balls the last few days.
▪ Bill Belichick, Jerod Mayo, Bill O’Brien, Joe Judge, and Steve Belichick were not spotted at Monday’s practice.
▪ Along with myriad NFL scouts, reps from several CFL teams, including the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Montreal Alouettes, and Saskatchewan Roughriders are in town.
▪ The Patriots signed receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. to a futures contract. He spent most of the 2022 season on the club’s practice squad.