Senior Bowl Buzz: Patriots In Stealth Mode

After spending the first day and a half of Senior Bowl practices under relative anonymity, the New England Patriots were out interviewing players Tuesday night. Find out which potential future defensive star went through their "grilling" process.

Although the Pats have one of the finest nose tackles in all of football in Vince Wilfork, they appeared to be enamored with the play of Boston College’s B.J. Raji at the North team practice. Following a press conference, Raji met with Patriots scout Kevin O’Brian for nearly an hour.

Most Pats fans should be familiar with Raji’s work, as he spent his collegiate career at BC. There are questions of whether or not the dominant tackle would be a better fit in a 3-4 defense, such as the Patriots run, or the standard 4-3.

“A lot of teams asked me which system I would be better in and I told them throughout my college career I played both,” Raji told Scout.com. I played a lot of nose, I also played two-gap. I’m pretty versatile.”

Although Raji has seen plenty of Vince Wilfork, as New England plays in nearby Foxboro, B.J. patterns his game after a different Pro Bowler.


Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen throws in front of the rush by Boston College's B.J. Raji during the first half of an NCAA college football game at Alumni Stadium in Boston Saturday, Nov. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

“Growing up I watched a lot of Tommie Harris from Oklahoma,” Raji said when he was asked which NFL defensive lineman that he would like to emulate.

The University of Alabama used their mammoth tackle, Terrence Cody in some offensive sets in 2008, and Raji was asked if he would like to be used in a similar way.

“I’ve been longing for it since high school, but it’s all up to the coaches,” Raji told reporters. “Whatever they want me to do I’ll do it, I’m a guy who wants to put the team first.”

B.J. Raji has been by far the most impressive defensive tackle on either team this week, and he made top-flight center prospects Alex Mack from California, and Max Unger from Oregon look like scrubs as they provided little or no resistance for the talented tackle.

“I’m trying to take it day by day and I feel I had a pretty good day today, but there’s always tomorrow,” Raji said modestly.

Raji’s dominance was confirmed when both Mack and Unger dominated most of the other defensive players they were lined up against.

When asked what his goals for this week are, Raji spoke graciously about his opponents and basically said all the right things.

“I just want to show the coaches that I’m a competitor,” Raji said. “This is by far the best group of talent in the senior class so I want to show them that I can compete and I can play at a high level.”

We asked an NFL scout what he thought about Raji and he spoke glowingly about his inside presence and his ability to be a Pro Bowl type of player. Raji has steadily moved up draft boards and is currently projected as a first-round pick. If he’s around when the Pats select at #23, he will truly test their best available player theory, as they really don’t have a need at the position, but he will likely be the most talented guy on the board.

Raji is projected as a first round pick by NFL Draft Scout, and is a five star prospect ranked as the 19th best player by Scout.com.

Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

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