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ORCHARD PARK, NY – Sean McDermott’s first minicamp as Bills head coach is officially over and the players are free to enjoy six weeks of summer before reconvening at St. John Fisher college for the start of training camp next month.

This year, training camp begins on July 27 and runs a few days shorter than previous years, concluding on August 15. Morning sessions will get started at 8:45 a.m. and there are no more night practices. Here’s the full schedule…

Credit: BuffaloBills.com

Throughout this week’s three day minicamp, plenty of intriguing storylines that will surely carry over into training camp later this summer have emerged. Here’s five you’ll want to remember…

1) Sammy Watkins rehab

When training camp commenced last year Watkins was no where near ready to participate fully. It took until the second week of practices for the speedy receiver to start joining in on individual drills and as he progressed through camp his reps during team drills were never really that substantial. This year he’s in a much better place. Throughout the three days of minicamp Watkins’ workload gradually increased to the point where he was running around with the first team offense during 11-on-11 drills, catching passes. He looked nimble and comfortable. Earlier in the week McDermott said that the goal was to have Watkins ready for training camp and it appears that he is. That’s good news, but Bills fans will certainly be watching Watkins’ every move at camp with nervousness. Any setbacks could make for another injury riddled season for the wideout.

2) Who’s next?

As encouraging as it is to have Watkins ready for the start of training camp, the rest of the wide receiver depth chart will be important. In the event that Watkins continues to hampered by his surgically repaired foot or even another injury emerges, who is next in line will be immensely important. The assumption is that second-round pick Zay Jones is a lock for the number two receiver position, but that may not be the case. McDermott has praised free agent acquisition Andre Holmes on several occasions throughout minicamp, as a player who has impressed him. Holmes’ towering 6-foot-4 stature could be a valuable asset to Tyrod Taylor, particularly in the red zone. Taylor used Justin Hunter’s identical frame to his advantage last year, tossing four touchdown passes his way. It’s safe to say that behind a healthy Sammy Watkins the rest of the receiving depth chart is to be determined at St. John Fisher.

3) Shaq Lawson’s growth in year 2 in a 4-3 defense

In three short days of minicamp Shaq Lawson looked pretty darn good. On day one he registered at least two sacks and throughout the remaining two days he continued to be disruptive. Now, at this time of year and at the start of training camp the defense is always a few steps ahead of the offense. Still, Lawson raved about being in a 4-3 defense where he’s more comfortable after practice on Thursday, and unlike last year is 100% healthy. A pass rushing tandem of Jerry Hughes and Lawson could be scary good if he continues to grow and develop during camp. He’s definitely a player to watch.

4) Who will emerge as starters for key defensive positions?

Particularly those linebacker spots and the starting nickel corner are the areas Bills fans will want to keep an eye on. Throughout minicamp the three starting backers remained Preston Brown, Lorenzo Alexander and Ramon Humber, but there’s certainly an opportunity for second-year man Reggie Ragland to make a name for himself at training camp and possibly earn a starting role. He was generally out as the second-team MLB this week. As far as the nickel CB spot is concerned, right now it looks like Leonard Johnson’s job to lose, but keep an eye on Kevon Seymour to make a push for the starting role, in his second season.

5) Writing already on the wall for Cardale Jones

As far as the questerbacks are concnerned it’s looking like the only real competition heading into camp will be between rookie Nathan Peterman and Cardale Jones, for the number three spot. McDermott didn’t rule out the idea of keeping four quarterbacks on the roster, saying “we’ll keep the best 53 [players],” but he also failed to mention Jones’ name when talking about the quarterbacks needing to earn their jobs. All indications are that Jones is entering camp as the weak link of this quartet of QBs. He’ll have a lot to prove at St. John Fisher if he wants to make the team this year.

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