36 things you need to know from AFC minicamps

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  • By Dan Hanzus, Marc Sessler, Gregg Rosenthal NFL.com
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Shadowy league figures have nearly succeeded in their quest to make the NFL a year-round sport. In truth, there are only five dead weeks off during the pro football calendar. Summer vacation starts now.

Twenty-five teams wrapped up their mandatory minicamps this week, and will go into hibernation until late July. Here's what we learned from each one of them before the break:

Baltimore Ravens


1. Ravens rookie wideout Breshad Perriman came out of college with a reputation for drops. The first-rounder looked good earlier this spring, but struggled Tuesday with four dropped balls. "Just really paying attention, getting too tired and really not focusing," Perriman explained to The Baltimore Sun. Despite the gaffes, coaches say Perriman has put together plenty of strong practice tape.

2. Cornerback Jimmy Smith was limited this week as he continues to heal from Lisfranc surgery. The team's starting cornerback is close to 100 percent, though, and expected to open training camp as a full participant.

3. Veteran back Justin Forsett has shown the "same form" that helped him run for 1,200 yards last season, per the team's official website. His ability to adjust to Marc Trestman's offense will be key, but Forsett is bound to see more catches this year after Trestman guided Chicago's Matt Forte to 102 grabs in 2014, an NFL record for running backs.

Buffalo Bills


1. Sammy Watkins graduated to 11-on-11 work this week, a good sign he is recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. Expect him to be a full-go for the start of training camp.

2. The starting quarterback job feels like a legitimate wide-open competition entering camp. Matt Cassel had a "brutal day" in practice on Wednesday according to one beat reporter. Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel weren't much better. The position remains a monumental concern.

3. Looking to give his slumping passers a break after a rough Wednesday practice, Ryan sat his first-team defensive line during drills on Thursday. "Kind of looked a little watered down over there on defense," Ryan said with a smile, via ESPN.com. This tells you a lot about the state of things.

Cleveland Browns


1. Quarterback Johnny Manziel has cleaned up his act and ditched the "money sign," but that alone won't heighten his chances of starting. Josh McCown has drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates and hits the break as the clear No. 1 heading into camp.

2. Rookie running back Duke Johnson has been the talk of minicamp on offense, with ESPN's Adam Caplan saying the former Hurricanes star has been "the most impressive" back at camp, playing all over the field and even at wideout. One Browns source told Around The NFL that Duke and fellow rookie fullback Malcolm Johnson are "going to play a lot of football for us."

3. Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said of rookie nose tackle Danny Shelton: "In two days, he's had only one busted play and we've thrown everything at him. I can't be happier." The play-caller also talked up outside linebacker Scott Solomon as a "car accident" for opponents, noting that Barkevious Mingo would need to earn his snaps.

Cincinnati Bengals


1. The most encouraging news this month has been the play of Geno Atkins. The interior defensive lineman "was just a guy out there" last season, according to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, but two seasons removed from ACL surgery, Atkins "looks as good as any guy we've got on our team," per the coach.

2. Andy Dalton is surrounded by one of the AFC's most talented rosters. That didn't stop the quarterback from throwing a flood of bad balls in Tuesday's practice, with Bengals.com writer Geoff Hobson noting that Dalton and wideout A.J. Green "appeared not to be on the same page."

3. After Cincy's four straight one-and-done playoff appearances, play-caller Hue Jackson acknowledged this week: "I'm tired of our organization being the brunt of jokes." Dalton's play will decide how far this team can go, which is scary, but Jackson -- one of the game's top strategists -- is stressing a versatile attack that uses players all over the field.

Houston Texans


1. The Texans obviously value stability in their secondary. The team signed Johnathan Joseph to a three-year extension on Thursday. The team locked up Kareem Jackson, its other veteran corner, in March. Joseph and Jackson have started together for the past four seasons.

2. Time to read between the lines: Some prominent Texans reporters remarked this week that Brian Hoyer appears the favorite to win the starting job over Ryan Mallett. Someone in the Texans camp is talking.

3. Still no sign of Jadeveon Clowney at Texans practice, but the team remains optimistic the former No. 1 overall pick will be an impact player this season. J.J. Watt praised Clowney for showing increased maturity. Clowney and Johnny Manziel should stage an Increased Maturity-Off this summer. Who's not watching?

Jacksonville Jaguars


1. Allen Robinson is a breakout candidate on offense. The receiver showed flashes of playmaking ability during a banged-up rookie season. He's healthy and drawing raves this spring. "He's been unbelievable," quarterback Blake Bortles said, according to The Associated Press. "He's definitely a threat now in the red zone."

2. Marqise Lee has struggled to stay on the field in his young career, and we didn't get to see him during minicamp. He is battling a knee issue that originally sidelined him during OTAs. The Jags are probably just being cautious with the wide receiver, but it's not a great start.

3. It continues to look like rookie second-round pick T.J. Yeldon will be an immediate contributor. ESPN's Adam Caplan said that Yeldon "could wind up" in a three-down role for a team searching for stability in the backfield.

Kansas City Chiefs


1. With so little depth at receiver, Travis Kelce is at worst the No. 2 receiver in Kansas City. Heading into his third season, he's started to demand the ball more. That's a good thing.

2. The Chiefs were a logical fit to woo former Eagles guard Evan Mathis after he was released, but coach Andy Reid said the team isn't interested. Kansas City's offensive line is full of question marks.

3. Kansas City says they want Alex Smith to go downfield more often this season. It would be impossible to throw deep less.

Miami Dolphins


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1. Rookie wide receiver DeVante Parker (foot surgery) is on track to be ready for Week 1, according to general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Still, the rehab will cost Parker most of training camp, hardly an ideal scenario for a first-year player.

2. Ryan Tannehill -- a.k.a. Miami's $96 Million Man -- had a strong offseason program. ESPN's James Walker observed that Tannehill has been consistently good in practice this spring, something that wasn't always the case in the past.

3. Looking for a player ready to make the leap in 2015? How about wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who Walker called the "most consistent playmaker at receiver this offseason." The absence of Mike Wallace should be a good thing for Landry -- and perhaps the entire Dolphins offense.

New England Patriots


1. Life is back to normal for Malcolm Butler. The cornerback, who was benched most of OTAs for showing up late to the first voluntary practice, has engaged in "spirited one-on-one competitions" with Julian Edelman, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss. Butler has the potential to make or break New England's secondary.

2. Brandon LaFell was nowhere to be seen this week as he deals with an undisclosed foot injury. LaFell was spotted wearing a walking boot at a Danny Amendola charity event, according to The Boston Globe.

3. Looking for a dark horse candidate in the battle to win the pass-catching running back role formerly held by Shane Vereen? Keep an eye on Dion Lewis, who's had a "good spring," according to Bill Belichick.

Pittsburgh Steelers


1. Steelers defensive end Cam Heyward told ESPN.com that he "loves" the play of third-year safety Shamarko Thomas, saying: "He knows he's not going to be Troy (Polamalu), but he can be a heckuva Shamarko Thomas." He certainly looks the part.

2. Post-Gazette beat writer Ed Bouchette believes defensive coordinator Keith Butler will blitz more often this season, writing: "Other changes you might see is what he told us last week, that the linemen will be more involved than just eating up blocks to allow the linebackers to run free."

3. Le'Veon Bell never thought about a long NFL career until meeting DeAngelo Williams, telling the Tribune-Review: "It never crossed my mind until when we got DeAngelo." Williams is gearing up to play a lead role if Bell's three-game suspension sticks, but we don't see Le'Veon's touches dipping from last season.

San Diego Chargers


1. Eric Weddle's prepared statement upon his return to Chargers practice was awkward, emotional and understandable. It's not easy to realize your employer doesn't value you as much as you thought. Weddle is paid like a top-three safety this year, and should be playing elsewhere next season.

2. Philip Rivers -- and others around the Chargers -- have been talking up second-year cornerback Jason Verrett as a potential top-five player at the position.

3. Rivers also talked up Keenan Allen's "focus" this offseason. As Rotoworld pointed out recently, there have been hints from players and writers that Allen's work ethic could have been an issue last year.

Tennessee Titans


1. Marcus Mariota has "looked like a pro" and taken control of the huddle, according to receiver Kendall Wright. "He's probably further along at this point than we thought he would be," coach Ken Whisenhunt said, per ESPN.com. "... I think there is good reason to be really excited about him."

2. Mariota's other wideout, the enigmatic Justin Hunter, weighed in at 205 pounds this week and hopes to start camp at around 210 pounds, per the Tennessean. That's a noticeable climb from last year's playing weight in the 190s, but the extra bulk won't matter unless his hands improve.

3. The Titans are beginning to form an identity, especially if Mariota makes an impact out of the gate. Tight end Delanie Walker wouldn't promise a Super Bowl (wisely), but the veteran says the long-lost Titans are at least a .500 team.

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