They show up at preseason football camps as second-class citizens, with modest contracts and the hope the decision-makers take their attention away from the draft picks now and then and look their way.

They are undrafted free agents, guys whose best shot to make a team, let alone a starting lineup, is usually longer than Adam "Pacman" Jones' rap sheet.

In a game that will determine whether they live to play another meaningful week this season, the 6-5-1 Eagles will take on the defending Super Bowl champion Giants Sunday at Giants Stadium, and seven undrafted free agents (not counting the Birds' kicker and punter) will likely have something to do with the outcome. At least five of those undrafted free agents will start.

Recently, Akeem Jordan moved ahead of Omar Gaither at weakside linebacker. The 23-year-old from Division I-AA James Madison had seven tackles in his first start against Baltimore and recovered a fumble in the Thanksgiving night win over Arizona.

When Asante Samuel was sidelined with a stinger for the Cardinals game, Joselio Hanson took his place at starting cornerback instead of Lito Sheppard. Hanson intercepted a pass in the first quarter. Samuel is expected to play Sunday, but it's likely Hanson will see plenty of action.

On Sunday, some of the task of keeping the Giants' voracious defensive front from confounding Donovan McNabb will belong to Nick Cole, who will start at right guard in place of Max Jean-Gilles, who has a broken right fibula. Built like a fire hydrant, Cole held his own during the second half against Arizona.

"He's always had pretty good endurance when it comes to the tests that we do before we start camp," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He's always right up there in the front of the pack."

Center Jamaal Jackson and fullback Kyle Eckel are also members of the UFA Club, and so are two of the Eagles' leading defenders - strong safety Quintin Mikell and end Juqua Parker, who moved into the starting lineup midway through last season and has five sacks.

Although not to the extent of the Eagles, the Giants rely on four undrafted free agents, including defensive captain Antonio Pierce and two members of one of the NFL's most efficient offensive lines: center Shaun O'Hara and guard Rich Seubert.

Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown, a second-round draft choice, said he admires undrafted free agents because they have to overcome perceptions draft choices typically don't have to deal with, in particular the notion that an undrafted player must have some glaring deficiencies.

"They've really got to fight for what they get because there's politics involved," said Brown, meaning players selected in the draft have the advantage when everything else is equal.

Hanson said patience may be as important as hard work. Hanson, 27, was signed by San Francisco as a rookie free agent in 2003, and the Eagles signed him in 2006. The soft-spoken Hanson knows what it means to bide your time.

"You have to overcome the fact that your opportunity is probably not going to come right away," he said. "We have to work our way from the bottom up. And I think we have to stress more. I think it's a lot more stressful thing when you go to a team undrafted, especially as opposed to being a first-round pick. There's a lot more uncertainty. A first-round pick is usually going to move right in there and get the chance. The undrafted guys have to work their way up just to make the team."

Mikell uses his status as an undrafted free agent signee as a motivator all year.

"It's pretty tough, especially when there are guys drafted for the same position you're going after," he said. "It's an uphill battle all the time. I think it also creates a situation where they [undrafted free agents] are always working to get better. You feel like you always have to get better every year. You have to work harder. You have to. I take off two weeks at most and I'm back at it. Not everyone does it, but for guys like me and Joselio, you have to."

Jordan caught Reid's eye with his instincts and ability to cover screen passes.

"He has a great feel for the game and has very good instincts for where the ball is going in the run game and pass game," Reid said. "He's done a nice job. He's played well."

Fighting for recognition is nothing new for Jordan, who was passed over by the big-time college programs and stayed home in Harrisonburg, Va., to help James Madison win a national championship in 2004.

"They draft guys for a reason," Jordan said. "The draft picks are who they really want to bring in and the free agents are guys they think can play. You just have to show them you can play. I just try to work hard and prove I can play. Football is football.

"I give everything I've got and if it's not good enough, it's not good enough."

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com