PHILADELPHIA - Eagles coach Andy Reid won't use many starters, if any, in tonight's preseason finale against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
He developed that philosophy in 2001, his third season with the team. Reid played his starters for one series that summer against the Jets. Center Bubba Miller suffered a fractured right ankle and never played for the Eagles again.
A number of current starters could use the extra work, including rookies Jason Kelce (center), Danny Watkins (guard) and Casey Matthews (middle linebacker). But most will be watching the backups try to earn spots on the regular-season roster. Watkins actually asked Wednesday to play today, but it was uncertain whether the team would grant his request.
Reid was not available for comment Wednesday, but the team announced that the second-team offense and defense will start the game and play about a quarter before giving way to the third team and other units.
"There are a lot of young guys who want to make the team so bad," veteran cornerback Asante Samuel said. "I'll be rooting for all of them (tonight). I'm a fan first, and I want to see all of them play well."
Tonight's game amounts to a final audition for on-the-bubble players. The Eagles currently have 80 players on their roster and must be at the regular-season limit of 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Players are vying to either convince the Eagles to keep them around or intrigue another team enough to pick them up.
That scenario has happened before. Two years ago, the Eagles tried to hide wide receiver Danny Amendola on their practice squad after releasing him. He'll play against the Eagles as a member of the St. Louis Rams in the regular-season opener Sept. 11.
The most intriguing story lines tonight concern the offensive and defensive lines, where a few former starters are fighting for backup roles on this season's team. Veteran centers Jamaal Jackson and Mike McGlynn, tackle King Dunlap and defensive end Juqua Parker are in danger of losing jobs.
Jackson, the only Eagles player left from the Super Bowl team of 2004, lost his starting job to Kelce and will start tonight with the second-team offense. McGlynn, who started 16 of 17 games last season at center after Jackson was injured, is expected to line up at either left or right guard.
"I'm not going to complain because what good would it do?" McGlynn said. "I'm not going to worry about anybody else or what decisions they make. If they cut me, they cut me, and if I'm here, I'm here. The bottom line is I've succeeded as a starter in this league, and I know I can still perform at a high level."
Parker, the oldest player on the team at 34, is still listed as the starting left defensive end but hasn't played much this preseason because of strained calf. He could lose out to rookie Phillip Hunt, a former Canadian Football League standout who has enjoyed an outstanding preseason.
Hunt, who registered 16 sacks for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last year, is battling with Parker, second-year veteran Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and free agent Chris Wilson for backup spots behind Jason Babin, Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp. Brandon Graham, last year's first-round draft pick, likely will start the season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list while he rehabs from a knee injury.
"I think I've had a pretty good preseason," Hunt said. "All in all, I think I've improved as a player and learned a lot about what it takes to play in the NFL. I'm just going to continue to practice and play hard and let the results speak for themselves."
Extra points: Four local players are trying to earn roster spots with other NFL teams. Jack Corcoran (Atlantic City, St. Joseph High School) has caught one pass for five yards as a backup fullback for San Francisco in the preseason. Clark Harris (Stafford Township, Southern Regional) is entering his third season as Cincinnati's long snapper. Dwayne Hendricks (Millville, Millville) is a backup defensive tackle with the New York Giants. Myron Rolle (Galloway Township, The Hun School) is a backup strong safety with Tennessee.
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