3 things to watch on Friday

Nnamdi Asomugha looks like his Pro Bowl former self. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Rising to the top?

While the starting defensive line has vanished before our eyes with each new injury, another unit is making its case to be considered the team's best group.

The defensive backs have been outstanding throughout the early days of training camp, and in particular Thursday. Safety Nate Allen ran stride-for-stride with DeSean Jackson in pursuit of a Michael Vick pass and stretched out for a diving interception during 7-on-7 passing drills. And Andy Reid loved it, shouting out his praise for Allen after the play.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is either shutting down receivers or jumping routes for deflections or picks. He had a sure pick-6 when he jumped a screen route during one drill, but he dropped the ball.

Nnamdi Asomugha looks like his Pro Bowl former self, and rookie Brandon Boykin resembles a mini-DRC, with either lock-down coverage as he showed on Damaris Johnson during drills, or reaching in to deflect passes. But Boykin won't admit that he's separating himself with his play.

"I wouldn't say that. I just focus on what I can do, and control what I can control," said Boykin.

Taking the heat

It may be Friday night fights at practice tomorrow if Thursday was any indication. An already muggy campus was even hotter, with the temperature Friday predicted to be even worse. The heat and humidity--and the long, hard practices--are having an effect as a few players were cramping or taking plays off.

Center Jason Kelse was not one of them.

"Any time it's a tough day weather-wise, you see who the tough guys are on the team," Kelce said. "The guys who persevere through these days are the guys you want to play with on Sundays because you know they won't quit."

The heat may have contributed to the fight/wrestling match that occurred between Danny Watkins and Phillip Hunt. It was the fourth Eagles fight in five days of live contact. At this rate, we'll be down to the punters duking it out by late August. Or maybe they'll just kick each other.

Special attention

Special teams coordinator Bobby April finds it easy to remind his players how important special teams play is. He says that without two costly special teams mistakes by Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship game, San Francisco would have been in the Super Bowl last year instead of defending champ New York.

"Punt return especially is so critical," April says. "The judgments returners make affect the offense and the defense."

That's why April is eager for the preseason games to begin, since they're the best gauge of a returner's true ability.

"The return game is tough to evaluate," he says. "So much of the thinking and evaluation is based on what they did in the past. Much of what you need to judge needs to be in the games."

Damaris Johnson is the top punt return candidate, and Boykin is the top kick returner. "I could definitely see Coach keeping a guy because of that skill," April said.