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Monday, June 10, 2013
AFC East minicamps: Five things to watch

By James Walker

Minicamps are in full swing around the NFL. All four AFC East teams will be participating in mandatory practices Tuesday June 11 through Thursday June 13.

Here are five things to watch:

No. 1: Quarterback competitions

Analysis: It’s been a big story all offseason during organized team activities. But look for the quarterback competitions with the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets to rise a couple notches this week during minicamp. In Buffalo, there’s a three-way competition between quarterbacks Kevin Kolb, Tarvaris Jackson and rookie EJ Manuel. In New York, it’s essentially a two-horse race between incumbent Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith. The quarterback who performs the best this week will gain a valuable edge heading into training camp.

No. 2: Clarity on Jairus Byrd

Analysis: Byrd, a Pro Bowl safety and arguably Buffalo's best defensive playmaker, is upset with the Bills after getting the one-year franchise tag this offseason. Buffalo has had off and on discussions with Byrd but it’s unknown when both sides will reach a resolution. Byrd skipped voluntary OTAs this spring and could make a big statement by skipping minicamp.

No. 3: Clarity on Randy Starks

Analysis: Similar to Byrd, Starks is unhappy about getting the franchise tag this offseason. Starks also wants long-term security coming off a very good 2012 season. He skipped his all of Miami’s OTAs but is expected to show up this week. Starks seems more willing than Byrd to play under the franchise tag this year. But Starks remains optimistic something can be worked out.

No. 4: Who are New England's reliable receivers?

Analysis: The Patriots need to begin figuring out who will be quarterback Tom Brady’s go-to wide receivers. Danny Amendola is secure in one starting spot, but the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers are wide open. Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones have been among the early leaders due to their veteran leadership. But others such as Lavelle Hawkins, Kamar Aiken and rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce continue to battle for reps. Mandatory minicamp is a chance for all of New England’s receivers to make an impression before training camp.

No. 5: Is Brandon Spikes improved?

Analysis: Spikes is one of the few Patriots who skipped voluntary workouts. It’s not about an injury or a contract. Spikes simply felt he would be more productive this offseason working on his own in Florida. It’s a risky proposition for Spikes, because you know the Patriots would prefer otherwise. Spikes has some pressure this week to show up in terrific shape and an improved linebacker this week to validate his decision to stay away from the team.