For the third straight season, the Eagles defense will feature a newcomer starting at one of the two safety positions. But unlike 2009 and 2010 when rookies found their way into the Week 1 starting lineup, the new guy this season is veteran safety Jarrad Page, the veteran who has started 40 games in his first five seasons. Page has been working with the first-team defense for the last few weeks while last year's second-round pick Nate Allen continues to work his way back to 100 percent health following a late-season torn Patellar tendon.
Thursday, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo confirmed that Page, 26, will start alongside Kurt Coleman when the Eagles open their season this Sunday in St. Louis, adding that, with Coleman, Page, Allen and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett, "We feel pretty good about our safeties."
That Castillo and the rest of the coaching staff is willing to entrust a starting job to a player who has only been with the team for about a month says a lot about Page's ability to adapt.
"I think it just says that they appreciate the work I've put in, how I practice and my knowledge of what's going on out there," said Page. "I think it says a lot. It means a lot to me that they have the confidence in me to go out there and do that.
"I'm very excited because you put in all the work during camp, you play the preseason games, and now, this is when it counts. This is when all your work counts and everything's going to get put in the history books starting this week. Everything we do from now on is going in the books and we're trying to take it week by week. It's a chance to go out and get a (win) and that would be great for us. We're not really worried about the expectations, outside expectations don't mean much, but we do have expectations of our own and that's to go out and play good football and win games."
Page will be flanked by perhaps the most impressive stable of cornerbacks in the league in the Pro Bowl trio of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
"I've been on a team that's had a lot of talented corners, but we've got three guys who aren't just talented, they've also performed, they've put up the statistics to match their talent in the league," said Page. "I haven't been around anything like that before."
JACKSON, LEWIS TO RETURN
Special teams coordinator Bobby April confirmed Thursday that DeSean Jackson, who was named to the Pro Bowl as a returner in 2009 and authored perhaps the most memorable punt return in league history against the Giants last year, will be the team's primary punt returner this week in St. Louis.
"He always wants the ball in his hands," said April of Jackson. "And certainly he's had so much success over high school, college, and the NFL returning kicks, you know, that's really just a part of his play. I don't think it's any different than playing receiver. So we might make it a difference because of how we use him and how much running he's doing, of course he's very valuable to the offense and consequently valuable to our organization in how many plays he has and that type of thing. But he's never, I mean he's always wanted the ball, he's always wanted to be the returner, to do the returns."
Meanwhile, rookie running back Dion Lewis will get the call as the team's kickoff returner. Lewis returned the opening kickoff for 40 yards against the New York Jets in the fourth preseason game and put up an impressive preseason as a running back, totaling 250 yards from scrimmage. Ronnie Brown, the No. 2 running back, is also an option in kickoff returns, April said.