The 2013 mandatory minicamps are in the books in the AFC East. The Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and New York Jets all wrapped up their three-day sessions on Thursday. The Patriots, in fact, cancelled their third and final practice as a reward for the team’s hard work.
But there were several interesting developments throughout the division this week. Here are four things we learned during AFC East minicamps:
No. 1: Jets QB Mark Sanchez has a slight edge
Analysis: The Jets' quarterback job is there for the taking. Incumbent veteran Mark Sanchez led the NFL in turnovers the past two years, but he is doing enough for now to hold off rookie second-round pick Geno Smith, who still has a lot to learn. Smith’s inexperience in the NFL and running a West Coast offense continued to show this week in minicamp. He’s going to have to do extra to supplant Sanchez, who now enters training camp as the favorite to win the quarterback job and start in Week 1.
No. 2: Tim Tebow’s role still up in the air
Analysis: Tebow-mania made its New England debut this week with plenty of media in Foxborough. However, Patriots coach Bill Belichick remained tight-lipped on how the team plans to use Tebow this season. Is Tebow simply a third-string quarterback? Will New England insert a Wildcat package for Tebow and take Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady off the field? Can Tebow play another position for New England, such as tight end, running back or special teams? The Patriots did not answer any of these questions this week. Expect plenty of speculation and debate on Tebow until training camp.
No. 3: Dolphins’ defense has improved
Analysis: The Dolphins spent a lot of money and resources to upgrade the defense. Miami signed free agents Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler to upgrade the linebacking corps and cornerback Brent Grimes to fix the pass defense. The Dolphins also drafted defensive end Dion Jordan No. 3 overall to fix the pass rush. It was evident in minicamp this week that this is an improved defense with much more speed and the ability to force turnovers. For example, Miami’s defense had four interceptions on Wednesday, including two against Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins are already good at stopping the run. If they can rush the passer and force turnovers, this will be a tough defense to handle in 2013.
No. 4: Bills’ offense still work in progress
Analysis: Buffalo’s offense struggled this week, and particularly the passing game. Quarterbacks Kevin Kolb and EJ Manuel did not perform well against the various and complex blitz packages of new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The pass protection also was shaky. Pettine is bringing the same formula that’s worked for the Jets the past several years, and Buffalo’s defense certainly had the advantage this week. New Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has about a month to fix some of their issues from minicamp.