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Eagles' Hanson, Graham enjoy chance to shine

When Kevin Kolb starts getting all the repetitions with the Eagles' first-team offense, it draws massive attention, even at these contact-free spring camps.

When Kevin Kolb starts getting all the repetitions with the Eagles' first-team offense, it draws massive attention, even at these contact-free spring camps.

That's the essence of playing quarterback in the NFL and being the backup to Donovan McNabb.

When Joselio Hanson and Nick Graham start working with the first-team defense, on the other hand, they can still pretty much go about their business without being questioned by a pack armed with notebooks, microphones and cameras.

That does not mean the first-team experience that cornerbacks Hanson and Graham have received during this eight-day camp, which concludes today, is not just as valuable as Kolb's throws to wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown.

Hanson, entering his third season with the Eagles, and Graham, a second-year cornerback who was an impact player on special teams last season, have received first-team exposure for a couple of reasons.

One is the absence of Lito Sheppard, who has exercised his right to boycott this voluntary camp. The other is Asante Samuel's hamstring injury, which has forced him to sit out the last five practices.

"It feels good being in there with the ones," Hanson said after practice yesterday. "Everything is pretty smooth when you run with the ones."

Even though defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is looking forward to having the cornerback trio of Sheppard, Samuel and Sheldon Brown on the field this season, his confidence in Hanson's ability to play the position grew considerably last season.

Hanson moved ahead of the oft-injured William James as the third cornerback by the middle of the season and even started four games. He had eight tackles in the Eagles' loss at New England.

"Every time he went in there, he made some plays," Johnson said. "He became a good blitzer for us, and I think he really showed he could play in the NFL."

Hanson, 26, showed enough that the Eagles decided to give him a $1.417 million, one-year deal as a restricted free agent. He hopes to eventually get a multiyear contract from the team.

"When he came in, he always had great feet and a great work ethic," Sheldon Brown said. "Once he learned the defense, his ability to make plays started to show. It's definitely a benefit for him to be running with the ones because the coaches start seeing you make plays and say, 'You know what, this guy is pretty good.' "

Graham, an undrafted free agent out of Tulsa last year, showed he could be physical as a rookie on special teams. Graham dressed for the final 15 games, and he finished third on the team in special-teams tackles.

"The guy who is making a lot of progress here is Nick Graham," Johnson said. "He's getting a lot of reps with the first group and he's done a good job. . . . He's going against good receivers by going against the first offense, especially in the seven-on-seven drills."

Graham, 24, said he was happy to have an impact on special teams as a rookie, but he wants more.

"I know I'm still in the same position as I was last year," he said.

"There are about seven corners, and you have four you know who are going to be here, so everybody is battling for that fifth spot. But I don't get involved in the numbers. I don't want them to think of me as just a special-teams player. Every year you're going to have injuries, and I want them to have confidence in me that I can play in games on the regular defense."

Extra points. Coach Andy Reid told the Daily News yesterday that McNabb has had an MRI exam that revealed no structural damage to the quarterback's ailing right shoulder. The coach said Tuesday that McNabb has been sidelined for the remainder of this camp by tendinitis. . . . Rookie receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring) missed a fifth straight practice, and guard Shawn Andrews (excused for personal reasons) sat out a fourth straight workout.