Only four players will miss Monday's night game against the New England Patriots because of injury, head coach Andy Reid said Saturday. Quarterback Mike Kafka (hand), defensive end Jason Babin (calf), wide receiver Riley Cooper (collarbone) and linebacker Casey Matthews (ankle) will not suit up for the Eagles in what is considered the team's "dress rehearsal" for the regular season. As such, Reid said the starters on offense and defense will play into the third quarter. At quarterback, Michael Vick will play at least the first half and Nick Foles will complete the game for the Eagles.
Because the third preseason game falls only four day following Monday night's tilt against the Patriots, and because the opponent for that third game is the Cleveland Browns, the Eagles' Week 1 opponent, this will be the team's opportunity to gauge themselves for when the games truly count.
"You want to sharpen yourself up from the last game is what you want to do," Reid said. "We understand we're still in the preseason, but you want to play good football and we have an opportunity to play a good football team. So, I think if you talk to both coaches, we'd probably tell you the same thing; that we want to play better than we did last week and improve and, at the same time, get the young guys in and that second group in for the latter part of the game."
The Patriots will provide a stern test for the Eagles, especially on offense where Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez form the league's most formidable tight end duo. Dealing with those tight ends will be one of the responsibilities set forth for rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks.
Gronkowski and Hernandez "are good players. So your safeties and your linebackers, that's a big challenge," said Reid. "That's the primary part of their offense, pass-game. They use combinations with those guys and you've got to be disciplined. It will be great for Kendricks. He's a young guy and it'll be a great experience for him."
At left tackle, King Dunlap, who has taken the first-team mantle from Demetress Bell since the first preseason game, is expected to play with the first-team offense as long as that unit is on the field, Reid said.
Defensively, it needs to be a bounceback game for safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, who struggled while playing with the starters against the Steelers last week. Back with the second team, Jarrett needs to take a step forward with the regular season on the horizon.
"He's busting it to make sure he gets better," Reid said of Jarrett. "He's identified the problems. He knows the problems and he's worked on them like crazy out here. I would imagine he would get that taken care of. That is the kind of person he is. He's a good football player and he's always working to get better."
Nnamdi Asomugha, who suffered a sore neck and a lip laceration following a scary mid-air collision with Nate Allen during Training Camp, is expected to suit up and play for the Eagles Monday night. Reid said that there was no hesitation to let Asomugha play once he was medically cleared to do so.
"Well, just getting the spasm out," Reid said. "He was X-Rayed; everything was good with bones and concussions. There were no concussions, any of that. So he had a spasm in his back area and it was just a matter of making sure that we got that calmed down. He felt great. He's a good communicator, so he feels like he's ready to go."
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