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Injuries Test Cornerback Depth

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is already unlikely to play against New England's high-powered passing game on Sunday, having missed another week of practice with a high ankle sprain. On Thursday, under the blue skies and sunny warmth at the NovaCare Complex, Nnamdi Asomugha went down during practice and was taken off the field and into the locker room, raising the level of anxiety for the defense.

There is no word yet on how serious the injury is, and we won't know until Friday. Asomugha will have further evaluations, likely an MRI, all the standard protocol players have when they are injured. One player, cornerback Joselio Hanson, said he talked to "a few people" and that he didn't think the injury was serious. Hanson even said he hoped to see Asomugha at practice on Friday.

We all want to see him on the field on Friday, and on Sunday when quarterback Tom Brady and his New England Patriots come to town.

But if Asomugha is out for that game, and beyond even, the Eagles have to adjust. The next man steps in. That's just the way it is in the NFL.

"If he isn't in there, I have to go in and do what I do," said Hughes. "I'm very prepared. I've been here since preseason, been working in and I've been waiting for an opportunity. That's kind of the nature of the business. If he is injured, another guy has to step up, whether it's me or somebody else.

"I feel good about the game plan and I feel good about what I can do."

If Asomugha can't play, the Eagles will have to good deep into their reserves to fill the void. Hanson is the team's best slot corner, so he could stay there when the Patriots use three receivers. Hughes would likely be the next player up to play the outside, and if the Eagles wanted to add a fourth cornerback on the field, they would have to turn to rookie Curtis Marsh, a third-round draft pick who made his regular-season debut on special teams last week against the Giants.

There is a reason the Eagles kept six cornerbacks on the roster when they formed the 53-man roster. They knew there would be injuries and they knew they would need depth.

That depth is being tested.

"If I get my chance, I'll be ready. The coaches believe in me and my teammates believe in me," said Marsh. "I go to all the meetings and I'm prepared. I've been preparing every week as if I'm going to play, so if I get my chance, I have to be ready to step up."

So we wait and see how the tests go with Asomugha, and how his knee responds to treatment. If he can play, the Eagles will use him in a variety of ways, as they usually do. If he can't go, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has to make some adjustments and make certain that his players are all on the same page with the changes.

New England has the dangerous Wes Welker, who does most of his damage out of the slot. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez move all over the formation and create matchup nightmares for defenses. Crafty veteran Deion Branch killed the Eagles in Super Bowl 39, so they are well aware of how good he can be.

"It all starts with Brady," said Hanson. "He puts the ball into tight spaces and he gets it there on time to his receivers. They are all on the same page. It's a great challenge for every defense."

The Eagles are no different. The good news is that they have some depth at such an important position. The unknown news is that we don't know how seriously Asomugha is injured. And then there is this: How will young players like Hughes and Marsh react with such a tall task ahead, should they have their roles increased?

"I've been practicing every week playing against DeSean (Jackson), JMac (Jeremy Maclin) and Jason Avant. Avant is the hardest player I've ever had to cover in my life," said Marsh. "Doing that every day on the scout team, I feel, kept me in game shape and kept me playing at a high level.

"I've gotten little tips from Asante (Samuel), Nnamdi, Dominique, all of those guys. So I feel good, I feel like I've gotten better. I feel smarter about the game, but now I have to step my game up because Tom Brady is the best and we've got him in a couple of days."

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