There are two ways to look at Mike Kakfa's fractured left hand.

Figuring out which way the Eagles view his injury will give a much clearer picture of their ultimate plans at backup quarterback.

The pessimistic view is that Kafka's injury - which could keep him out for the rest of the preseason - won't allow coach Andy Reid and company to get a better read on the man that is to be Michael Vick's backup.

The optimistic one - and the one shared by Kafka's growing number of critics - is that his absence allows rookie Nick Foles and veteran Trent Edwards to get more playing time and to compete for a job that Kafka has not look capable of filling.

Vick will play at least the first half when the Eagles travel to New England on Monday for their second preseason game. Foles will replace Vick under center, followed by Edwards, Reid said Thursday.

Typically, the Eagles don't play more than three quarterbacks in their second preseason game, so there was a chance that Edwards, who has been fourth on the depth chart, would have either not played or possibly been released.

But Kafka's loss has and could be Edwards' gain.

"You never want to see anybody get hurt and you always have to be prepared if somebody does get hurt, especially at this position," Edwards said. "Both guys got dinged last week."

Vick bruised his thumb against the Steelers, but the way he initially reacted after he banged his hand against center Jason Kelce's helmet had many hearts pitter-pattering in Philadelphia.

There are many Pro Bowl quarterbacks in the NFL without Jeff Garcia types backing them up. But Vick's style of play and his penchant for injury make the Eagles' backup that much more important. For whatever the reason, Reid did not address the position as he has in recent seasons.

If Vick goes down with a significant injury, well, the season is likely doomed anyway. But what if it's one that keeps him out for just three games as broken ribs did in each of the two previous years? A capable backup could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs.

Kafka has just 16 career NFL passes and yet Reid handed him the No. 2 job in the spring. The Eagles wanted to give the third-year quarterback, who had his first full offseason, every opportunity to claim that spot.

And yet, Kafka's performance in the preseason opener - 5-for-9 passing for 31 yards and one interception - and continued concerns about his arm strength have not inspired confidence in the 25-year-old.

"There was definitely some good things out there," Kafka said of his Steelers outing, "and definitely some things I can get better at, too."

Kafka said he broke his nonthrowing hand on his first series. The injury could have affected his play.

Reid said "there's a chance" Kafka could be ready for the last preseason game against the New York Jets on Aug. 30. He was asked if he was comfortable with Kafka as his backup if he was not to play in the rest of the preseason.

"I have a pretty good feeling on what he can do in this offense," Reid said.

The coach has misled on his true feelings before, so Kafka shouldn't start relaxing. If Reid has come to the conclusion that many fans have already formed about the 2010 fourth-round draft pick, then Kafka could be the odd man out.

That would leave Edwards or Foles. Both aren't ideal although not many backups are. Edwards did not play in the NFL all of last season. The Eagles signed him as a free agent in February.

The 28-year-old has gotten the least amount of snaps, but he also has the most experience with 33 career starts. Edwards' passing has not looked especially sharp, either. Many of this throws wobble, but Reid said his arm has gotten stronger.

"I've been fighting this bad habit of keeping my front shoulder too high and not being able to clear my elbow and keep it up high enough," Edwards said.

Foles has looked the best of the three. He also has the least experience. Reid said that he and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have already given the rookie a large chunk of the playbook.

"His poise has really impressed me, his decision making obviously, and he has a big time arm," Vick said. "I think Nick has all the ingredients to be a great quarterback in this league. It may take some time, it may not."

Reid may have already seen enough to believe that Foles can handle the backup job. He still has Edwards as a safety net, which may have been the plan all along. There are a few backup-worthy quarterbacks - Colt McCoy? Tarvaris Jackson? - potentially on the market.

The next three preseason games will help sort it all out, and perhaps tells us how Reid really feels about Kafka's broken hand.