It is well-known throughout Eagles Nation that quarterback Donovan McNabb, after missing the previous two weeks, will be back in the lineup tomorrow against the New York Giants.

Amid the hullabaloo over McNabb's return, however, it has been easy to overlook the fact that safety Quintin Mikell, a key figure in the secondary, also will return to the starting lineup after being sidelined for the last two weeks.

Mikell sprained a ligament in his right knee late in the first half of the Eagles' Nov. 18 win over Miami. Before that, he had started seven games - five at free safety in place of Brian Dawkins, and two at strong safety in place of Sean Considine.

Two weeks out of the lineup seemed like two months to Mikell. After watching his team suffer narrow losses to New England and Seattle, he is eager to return.

"I would say, secondary-wise, we've been doing a pretty good job," Mikell said yesterday. "Obviously, there are a few plays we want to get back. I feel like what I bring to the table is just being intense and going out there and trying to make plays.

"It was rough watching. I wanted to be out there. I'm a guy who wants to play. I'm glad to get out there and help."

The loss to the Patriots was particularly difficult. Mikell did not travel with the team to Foxborough, and wound up "scaring the daylights out of my son" as they watched the game at home.

"He's still a little spooked every time I yell," Mikell said. "Any time we made a good play, it'd be 'Yeah!' and screaming and stuff, and he'd look at me. A couple of times, we made a couple of mistakes and let them score touchdowns, and I was yelling, uh, colorful stuff."

The 5-foot-10, 206-pound Mikell, a fifth-year player and the Eagles' special-teams MVP the last two years, has come into his own as a position player. During the time Mikell missed, J.R. Reed, normally a return specialist, also got a chance to show what he could do.

Reed impressed defensive coordinator Jim Johnson enough that Johnson said earlier in the week that he would employ Reed with Mikell and Dawkins in three-safety sets against Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

As for Mikell, Johnson said he "looks healthy . . . looks fresh. He'll be starting" tomorrow.

Mikell lauded the effort made in the last two weeks by Reed, whose fierce hit on Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss was a highlight of the game.

"I'm biased for the secondary," Mikell said. "I know what [Reed] can do. It might surprise some people, but I felt like me and him were in the same boat, and we just needed a chance to show it. I think J.R. has really stepped up. He went through some things, and he stepped up to the challenge and did a great job."

Cornerback Sheldon Brown said he appreciated the job being done by both Mikell, the Eagles' fifth-leading tackler, and Reed amid all the injuries in the defensive backfield.

"I think both are great football players," Brown said. "I don't know if one guy does anything greater than the other guy. . . . I just know they're where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there.