Eagles Relying On Their Backup DBs

Eagles are going to need the most from DB Joselio Hanson on Sunday as Tom Brady and the pass-happy Patriots come to town.

Hanson emerges due to Rodgers-Cromartie's injury

   The high ankle sprain that has sidelined cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie probably has helped the Eagles' defense more than it's hurt it.

   Rodgers-Cromartie, who was acquired from the Arizona Cardinals in a late-July trade, has not played very well this season. Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has used him mainly in the slot, where he's never played before, and it has showed.

   With Rodgers-Cromartie out last week, Joselio Hanson returned to the nickel spot he had occupied for more than four seasons before the arrival Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha. Hanson turned in a solid performance in the Eagles' 17-10 win over the New York Giants.

   Castillo and head coach Andy Reid have refused to acknowledge that putting Rodgers-Cromartie inside was a bad idea, pointing out that Asomugha also has played in the slot on occasion.

   "Juan's doing a good job of moving guys around," Reid said. "We've got some talented players there. And I'm counting Jose (Hanson) there. You want to use them all if you can."

   Rodgers-Cromartie is expected to be sidelined for several games, so Hanson will again be in the slot Sunday when the 4-6 Eagles take on the 7-3 New England Patriots, who only have the best slot receiver in the game. Wes Welker leads the league in receptions (74) and receiving yards (1,028).

Confidence In Young
   --While Vince Young played pretty well in the second half Sunday during the Eagles' 17-10 win over the New York Giants, coach Andy Reid made it clear Monday that if Michael Vick's fractured ribs have healed enough to allow him to play this week against the Patriots, Vick would start.

   "I'm literally going to take it day by day here and see how it goes with Mike," Reid said, "but if he can play, he'll start. He feels a little bit better, but if he had to play today, he couldn't."

   Young, making his first start in more than a year Sunday, clearly was rusty in the first half against the Giants, completing just eight of 18 passes for 89 yards and throwing two interceptions. He played much better in the second half, particularly on the Eagles' game-winning 18-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter.

   Young completed 15 of 18 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He was 7-for-9 for 67 yards on the long drive, which he capped off with an 8-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Riley Cooper.

   "I don't have a long history with Vince," Reid said of the quarterback the Eagles signed before the season to back up Vick. "I felt confident he would be successful, knock a little rust off and get caught up with the game speed and be OK."

   Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had Young mostly throwing short to intermediate passes. He underthrew a deep ball to DeSean Jackson on the Eagles' second possession that was intercepted by Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara. Young connected with Jackson on a 54-yard pass in the second quarter, but the play was wiped out when Jackson was penalized for taunting. Most of Young's other throws were in the 5- to 15-yard range.

   "I just wanted to take it one play at a time," Young said. "That's pretty much what we were saying on the sideline. And take our time and make plays."

Eagles' cling to slim playoff hopes

   --At 4-6, the Eagles still are a longshot to make the playoffs. They pretty much are going to have to win the NFC East to get in, and with the Giants and Cowboys currently holding a two-game lead over them, they're probably going to have to win their final six games.

   "You just have to take one game at a time," coach Andy Reid said. "There's not enough time or energy to worry about all that stuff. You control what you can control, which is getting ready to play the New England Patriots, who are a good football team. If you get into that other stuff, you drive yourself crazy."

   --Linebacker Keenan Clayton saw his most significant action of the season Sunday. The second-year player out of Oklahoma was used in some of the Eagles' nickel and dime packages. He had four tackles, including a third-quarter stop on wide receiver Victor Cruz on a third-and-11 pass. Clayton held him to a 10-yard gain, and the Giants were forced to punt. Clayton has been one of the team's top special teams players this season, but he found himself in defensive coordinator Juan Castillo's doghouse in the preseason and had a hard time getting on the field.

   "Keenan has really come on on the special teams," Reid said. "He's upped his game. He was sat down for a little bit for a few games, but when he had the opportunity to get back in there, he really put it on a different level than what he was before. We started feeding him into the defense in practice. He was picking things up well and attacking. He was playing at the same level he was on special teams. He did some good things for us Sunday."

   --QB Michael Vick's status for Sunday's game against the Patriots won't be determined until later in the week. Vick missed last week's game with two broken ribs.

   --QB Vince Young played much better in the second half Sunday than he did in the first half. He completed 15 of 18 passes in the second half after completing just eight of 18 and throwing two interceptions in the first half. He engineered the Eagles' game-winning 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

   --WR Jeremy Maclin, who sat out Sunday's win over the Giants with shoulder and hamstring injuries, ran on his own Monday, but it's too soon to tell whether he'll be able to play this week against New England.

   --WR DeSean Jackson has six catches for 88 yards Sunday and would have had seven for 138 if he hadn't been flagged for a taunting penalty when he threw the ball at Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell at the end of his 50-yard reception.

   --TE Brent Celek has 28 receptions in the last five games after catching just nine passes in the first five.

   --TE Clay Harbor, who had a big first-down catch on the Eagles' game-winning drive against the Giants, is getting a lot of playing time this season as the Eagles have increased the number of two-tight-end formations they've used.

   --DT Cullen Jenkins is coming off his best game as an Eagle. He put constant interior pressure on the Giants' Eli Manning. Philadelphia will need the same type of performance from him this week against the Patriots.

   --CB Joselio Hanson will again replace injured Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the third corner in the Eagles' nickel package. Hanson actually is a better slot defender then Rodgers-Cromartie.

   --LB Keenan Clayton likely will be used in the nickel and dime packages this week as the Eagles try to neutralize the Patriots' two pass-catching tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

   --OL King Dunlap, who suffered a concussion in the Arizona game the previous week, missed Sunday's game after failing to pass his ImPACT test. It's not certain whether he'll be cleared to play this week.

   --DE Brandon Graham, who had microfracture surgery on his knee last year after tearing his ACL, sat out Sunday's game with a rib contusion and also swelling on his surgically repaired knee.

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