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Defining The Priorities Of Camp

In case you missed it, well, we're kind of responsible here. Our Training Camp Live! cameras were on the sidelines on Thursday and there was Nnamdi Asomugha, finding the lens and making sure to get his point out that maybe, perhaps, the defensive linemen don't work as hard in practice as do the defensive backs.

Well, apparently, the defensive linemen saw the video. And Jason Babin (@JasonBabin93) and Cullen Jenkins (@CullenJenkins) went to their Twitter attacks to launch a vicious attack on Asomugha, specifically his new hairstyle which, as the kids say, is very fresh. Kind of Fresh Prince fresh, but that's a matter of perspective and who am I to make any comments about anybody's hair style, right?

Anyway, this stuff is escalating. Are you worried about a rift between the defensive backs and the defensive line? What happens if the Eagles allow a big play in the passing game and the line turns its back on the secondary or, worse, Tweets during a game that they don't like cleats the guys in the secondary wear or something.

I guess this story is big enough to bump the President Obama edict to quarterback Michael Vick to "slide" or else to the back page ...

But seriously, folks ... This is all great fun. This is terrific stuff. There is camaraderie building here. It's an intangible that, honestly, the Eagles never had time to develop in 2011. Head coach Andy Reid takes his team to training camp -- and only about half of the league has off-site training camps these days -- for this very reason. He wants his team to bond. He wants chemistry. He wants trust to build as the players get to know each other, as they become more familiar on and off the field with each other.

That Asomugha is joking around is a hugely great sign. He was a new player in a strange place last year, having signed as the marquee unrestricted free agent as training camp opened. Asomugha is, by nature, a reserved guy. He isn't a big-speech teammate in the locker room and has enough off-the-field experiences that he is able to pay attention to things beyond the playing field.

He has clearly been more at ease in 2012. He knows the organization and who is who and what the people he sees do for the Eagles. His role is more defined in the defense. His place in the locker room is more familiar and secure. That Asomugha is joking with his teammates is to be seen as a thumbs-up sign, and validation for Reid's reasons to have training camp in Bethlehem, Pa.

There are other objectives here, of course. Team chemistry takes you only so far. A couple more  related to football that spring to mind are ...

  1. Rookie development. This is critical, of course. Already the Eagles have Mychal Kendricks in the starting lineup at SAM linebacker, are projecting Brandon Boykin as a featured player in the return game on special teams and as a possible starter as a nickel cornerback and have huge plans for defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry. Used to be, rookies were brought along more slowly, fed the schemes in healthy doses and expected to step in here and there. That's not the case any longer. Players play. Doesn't matter when or where or how they became Eagles.
  1. Make sure the depth is sturdy across the board. Here's an example, one that hit the Eagles in the face on the first day of practice: Tight end Brent Celek suffered a mild knee sprain that could keep him out of practice for a few days to a week. Now, look, Celek is going to be fine. This is just a "tweak," as head coach Andy Reid said on Friday. But when Celek walked off the field on Thursday, a thought goes through the mind: "Whoa, the Eagles need to be ready at tight end just in case something happens there." The point is that Clay Harbor and Brett Brackett and Chase Ford now need to step up and show something, or the Eagles will have to consider options. That's the way it is at every position.
  1. Find the best 53 players for the 2012 season. That is the ultimate goal of training camp, of the offseason. The Eagles are installing dozens of plays every day and the mental strain for players can be overwhelming. Combine that with the physical stress and you understand why only the strong survive. You can talk about all of the intangibles and the roster gyrations and all of that, but what really matters for Reid and general manager Howie Roseman is that they put together a roster that wins the Super Bowl. That's the only goal that matters.

We have a long, long way to go in this training camp. Ask me who is going to play at what position and I'll tell you that the pads haven't even go on yet. Projecting wins and losses at this point is foolhardy, yet we do it because it's fun and we're just killing time until the action really begins.

I can tell you that the mood here is extremely positive and confident and filled with resolve. There are things happening here -- like the Asomugha vs. defensive line prattle -- that we never saw a year ago. These are the little things that can make a difference when it comes time for the players to strap on their shoulder pads and get this thing going for real.

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