Minicamp Morning: E.J. Manuel inconsistent, Paul Richardson and Robert Alford shine, more

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Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of interesting nuggets around the league that beat writers are passing along, and our “Minicamp Morning” series helps bring some of those notes into one place with quick thoughts on what each note means.

1. Desmond Trufant quickly established himself as one of the league’s best young cornerbacks and a centerpiece player on the Atlanta Falcons defense as a rookie, and fellow second-year CB Robert Alford has a shot at joining him in 2014. The Falcohlic’s Jeanna Thomas wrote in her observations piece that Alford has become more of a ballhawk and starred at minicamp yesterday. If Alford can make the jump this season, then the Falcons will be set at corner. Thomas also passes along that pass rusher Kroy Biermann participated in team drills and seems fully recovered. This is great news, as his injury was one of a number of tough blows to the Falcons defense. He can fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker as the Falcons make the transition to what could be a hybrid front seven. Biermann does a quality job of putting pressure on the quarterback, but he’ll have to amp it up a notch with Osi Umenyiora a question mark in 3-4 sets.

2. The New York Daily News’s Manish Mehta tweeted that third-year pro Stephen Hill looked like the best Jets receiver at minicamp upon the time of him writing that tweet, and this is good news for those hoping Hill can make something out of his career. His first two seasons out of Georgia Tech have been unmitigated disasters, as he’s been more raw than expected. Not only does Hill drop a copious amount of passes, but he has issues running routes and didn’t make the mental transition to the NFL quickly enough. Even Rex Ryan showed public disappointment with Hill, so we can only hope that the uber-athletic wideout can right the ship this offseason. One notable minicamp practice is meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but the microscope is on Hill this offseason.

3. ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss highlighted a reception Wisconsin rookie running back James White made for the New England Patriots at practice yesterday, as he beat linebacker Dont’a Hightower, whose slow step in pass coverage has been well-documented, on the sideline for a reception. If this is a sign of things to come for White on the Patriots, then they’ll have two running backs who can cause damage through the air. Shane Vereen is undoubtedly one of the league’s elite pass-catching RBs, but White would be a great contingency plan should Vereen go down for an extended period of time (this has happened to the Cal product in each of the past two seasons).

4. More Patriots stuff here. Both NESN’s Doug Kyed and the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels tweeted that camp body Daxton Swanson continues to play well in offseason workouts, and it will be interesting to see if Swanson can sneak onto the Patriots practice squad and clear waivers. Swanson has played so well in workouts that it’s possible someone else could give him a shot at the roster, but his chances of cracking the Pats roster are nil given their incredible talent at CB.

5. Vernon Davis decided to skip out on the first day of minicamp in order to amplify his distaste with his current two-year contract that will pay him $4.7 million next season, but 49ers backup tight end Vance McDonald failed to capitalize on the added reps. The second-year pro entered his rookie season with positive offseason buzz before doing nothing of note in the regular season, and his lackluster practice sessions continued yesterday. Per the San Jose Mercury News’s Cam Inman, the 49ers as a whole put in a sloppy practice due to frequent drops, and he singled out McDonald as a player who had “a couple” of them. If this ends up being a trend in the offseason, then McDonald will put himself further behind the curve and will have have a minimal impact for the second straight season.

6. The 2012 season was an anomaly for ace kicker Mason Crosby, who was clearly on form for the Green Bay Packers last season and is picking up right where he left off in the offseason. ESPN NFL Nation’s Rob Demovsky writes that Crosby nailed all seven field goal attempts yesterday, including a 53-yarder to end practice.

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