As Hanson said Sunday after the Eagles' meaningless 14-13 loss to Dallas, the Packers are "going to be in three-wide [receiver sets], anyway, all game. Basically, I'll be in the slot most of the time anyway."
No matter who starts, the more pointed question is: How did the Eagles wind up with a choice between two undrafted cornerbacks? Many good players have entered the league without being drafted, and Patterson and Hanson are certainly serviceable cornerbacks. But neither has proven to be the long-range answer as a starter.
Some questionable off-season moves – or non-moves – and an injury to opening-day starter Ellis Hobbs have the Eagles entering the playoffs with a question mark at right cornerback. And Rodgers is going to sling arrow after arrow in that direction - whether it be Patterson or Hanson.
"Hey, it's no different from the first day I started," said Patterson, who took over as the starter against the Colts on Nov. 7. "Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers - they all do it. . . . But how do you know if you're any good if you don't go against anybody else good?"
The Eagles entered the season not knowing how good they were at right cornerback.
In April, they traded Sheldon Brown, after eight solid seasons, to the Browns. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was asked how the team intended to fill the vacancy and he said that the job would go to Hobbs.
Midway through the 2009 season, Hobbs suffered a neck injury and required season-ending surgery. The Eagles were expected to use one of their five draft picks in the first three rounds on a cornerback.
They did not. Instead, they drafted defensive end Brandon Graham in the first round, safety Nate Allen in the second, defensive end Daniel Te'o-Nesheim in the third, and traded away the two other picks. Reid said then that the Eagles had made improving their pass rush their No. 1 off-season priority.
Graham recorded three sacks in 13 games before he suffered a season-ending torn knee ligament, and Te'o-Nesheim has not been active on many game days.
The Eagles selected cornerback Trevard Lindley in the fourth round, but he has not risen up the depth chart. When Hobbs had a disastrous performance against receiver Kenny Britt and the Titans and was sidelined the next week because of a hip flexor strain, Patterson was the next man in. (Hobbs was lost for the season a few weeks later when he reinjured his neck.)
Patterson handled himself well in the next three games, even as quarterbacks targeted him significantly more than Samuel. But the constant attention wore him down. He was victimized by New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning for three first-half touchdowns on Dec. 19. And two early second-half penalties resulted in his being benched against the Vikings last week.
Hanson took over, but he, too, has had issues when filling in for the injured Samuel. McDermott and Reid had positive things to say about Patterson's performance against the Cowboys on Sunday. But third-string Dallas quarterback Stephen McGee is not Rodgers.
Other than MVP-bound Tom Brady, there isn't a quarterback entering the playoffs on a hotter streak. In his last seven games, Rodgers has completed 71.4 percent of his passes, tossed 16 touchdowns against two interceptions, and had a passer rating of 122.
He'll likely have receiver Greg Jennings (76 catches, 1,165 yards, 12 touchdowns) lining up opposite Patterson or Hanson.
It's a daunting scenario considering that the Eagles' defense has surrendered 31 passing touchdowns, third worst in the league.
"Do we need to get better? Yeah, we need to keep getting better," Reid said. "And do we have an idea of the issues? Yes, and we're going to work on fixing those."
Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or email@example.com.
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