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Six things to watch for at Bills voluntary veteran minicamp this week

Posted Apr 18, 2017

John Murphy takes a look at the top storylines heading into this week's voluntary veteran minicamp.

There’s still the schedule to be announced.  And we’re just a little more than a week away from the NFL Draft.

But today marks a significant milestone in the 2017 Bills offseason. It’s the first day of the Voluntary Veteran Minicamp—phase two of the offseason program for players.

Here are six key issues to consider when the Bills take the field later today:

1. THE WORKOUTS ARE STILL TIGHTLY STRUCTURED

The collective bargaining agreement with the players strictly outlines what can, and cannot take place on the field during this second phase of the offseason.

Like phase one (the last two weeks) the players are limited to four hours per day for a maximum or four days per week. But unlike the last two weeks, Bills coaches are now allowed on the field. Bills TE Logan Thomas says the tempo and focus of the workouts will change, especially with the coaching staff on the sidelines.

“These first two weeks were just lifting, running and learning,” Thomas said last week, in an appearance on The John Murphy Show. “This week is when you touch the field and that intensity will go up a couple of decibels. And the coaching staff will really get the first look at what you do.  Especially in veteran minicamp with a first time coaching staff.”

2. FIRST TIME FOR MCDERMOTT ON THE FIELD AS HEAD COACH

Three months after he got the title, Sean McDermott will take the field for the first time as an NFL head coach during this week’s minicamp.

Last week, McDermott talked to WGR Sportsradio 550 about his eagerness to hit the field. He said he was so excited he took his new coaching staff out on the field last week to map out practice. Essentially, he and his staff were practicing….practice.

“We walked through practice yesterday as a staff,” McDermott said. “We went inside then outside to the stadium to walk around and see practice and see how it would play out in there.”

“It was really my first time in the stadium since being named head coach of the Buffalo Bills. It was kind of a neat moment, to be out there with my staff and talk about how the wind swirls in there and get a better feel for that.”

3. A LOOK AT TWO NEW QUARTERBACKS

The Bills added two new names to the quarterback roster this offseason and they’ll get their first look at veteran T.J. Yates and Josh Woodrum on the field this week.

All of the quarterbacks have been throwing to receivers in recent weeks on their own. But now they get to throw to them in more structured drills with instruction from the coaching staff.

Yates took just one snap last year, in Miami’s wild card playoff loss to Houston. Going into his seventh season, Yates turns 30 years old in a month and a half. He’s expected to add a dose of leadership and experience to the Bills quarterback room.

Woodrum spent two weeks on the Bears practice squad late last season, but he’s never seen the field in the NFL. He is a product of Liberty University.

Tyrod Taylor is back as the starter, but the coaching staff will also be interested in watching second year quarterback prospect Cardale Jones.

4. QBs THROWING TO REVAMPED WIDE RECEIVER CORPS

The new and returning quarterbacks will see some new faces on the other end of their passing drills this week. Veteran Andre Holmes has a chance to claim the number two WR spot (opposite Sammy Watkins). McDermott told reporters last month he believes the Bills number two wideout is on the roster right now.

Besides Holmes, newcomers Philly Brown, Jeremy Butler and Corey Washington have a chance to challenge for jobs. Returning are veterans Brandon Tate, Walt Powell and Dez Lewis. Plus, last year’s sixth round pick Kolby Listenbee will be watched closely.

5. HOW MUCH WORK FOR THE WOUNDED?

Listenbee is one of several players coming back from significant injury from last season. The speedy wide receiver from TCU may or may not be ready to jump into the drills after surgery kept him on the sidelines all last season.

Fellow WR Sammy Watkins is likely to be severely limited in his work this spring, just months removed from a second surgery on a broken bone in his foot. Veteran C Eric Wood will also have his workload closely monitored, as he returns from a broken leg suffered last November.

Second year LB Reggie Ragland has an opportunity to earn a starting spot this fall, but his rehab from knee surgery is still ongoing and he’s not likely to do much this week.

6. NEW FACES ON DISPLAY

Through free agency, the Bills have made significant additions to the roster this spring, if not necessarily “big splash” additions.

Much of the attention this week will focus on safety, where veterans Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer are expected to hold down key roles.

At fullback, the Bills added Patrick DiMarco and Mike Tolbert to the team, with very specific and defined roles in mind for that group.

The Bills still have only seven cornerbacks on the roster. Veteran signings Leonard Johnson and Marcus Cromartie bring NFL experience to the field.

In the trenches, Vladimir Ducasse will begin competing for playing time on the offensive line and Ryan Davis will shore up the depth at defensive end.

The proverbial “pep in the step” should be evident on the field with the Bills Voluntary Veteran Minicamp begins this week.

“Everybody is on the field, ready and rarin’ to go,” Logan Thomas says. “It’s very different compared to the first two weeks where there are no coaches and it’s just lifting and running.”

And for first year Head Coach Sean McDermott, it’s another step along the way to the season opener—a significant step for him.

“It is a long offseason,” McDermott says, “but it’s a necessary window of time for us to prepare and get on the same page and move forward as a team.”

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