Page turning out to be a big deal for Birds

An unheralded signing, Jarrad Page could be the Eagles starting safety to start the season. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

IF YOU BLINKED, you might have missed Jarrad Page's signing with the Eagles this month.

The 26-year-old safety agreed to terms with the team the same day as running back Ronnie Brown and offensive tackle Ryan Harris and only 3 days after the Utah Beach landing of Nnamdi Asomugha, Jason Babin, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Donald Lee and Vince Young.

Page was the "in other news" signing that day. Brown and Harris both were brought to the media tent at Lehigh the next day for meet-and-greets with reporters. Page? Uh, he's over there if anybody needs to talk him.

Three weeks later, Page's signing could end up being the third-most significant acquisition of the summer by the Eagles, behind only Asomugha and Babin.

Harris, who was brought in to fix the leak at right tackle, lasted one preseason game before injuring his back. He's missed the last two preseason games, including last night's 24-14 win over the Browns, and has made only one practice appearance. Right now, his chances of being any kind of a pass-protection factor this season are slim.

Brown was a good get and gives the Eagles needed depth at running back. He rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on six carries last night and had three receptions for 15 yards. But he will get limited touches behind LeSean McCoy.

As for Page, right now, it looks as if he will be the Eagles' starting strong safety in 2 weeks when they open the season against the St. Louis Rams. That was supposed to be Nate Allen's job. But the 2010 second-round pick, who started 13 games as a rookie, still isn't all the way back from the ruptured patellar tendon he suffered last December.

Allen struggled mightily in the Eagles' second preseason game against Pittsburgh. This week, he and Page began exchanging first-team reps in practice.

Last night, Page started against the Browns and played the entire first half. He was part of an impressive defensive effort that held the Browns to six first downs and 103 net yards in the first half.

"I didn't see anything that jumped out at me that he didn't do well, as far as a critical error," coach Andy Reid said of Page.

The 6-foot, 225-pounder twice made nice stops on Peyton Hillis, the Browns' 6-2, 250-pound Mack truck of a running back. He got turned around in coverage once by tight end Evan Moore, but recovered sufficiently to deflect the pass from quarterback Colt McCoy.

"It felt good to get some action and fly around and do some things," Page said. "I thought I played pretty well. But I'm very critical of myself. I know there are some things I could've done better. But overall, I thought things went well."

Page said he hasn't had too much difficulty picking up the Eagles' defensive system, despite not joining the team until a week into training camp.

"I've been able to pick things up fairly quickly," he said. "Defensive systems are somewhat similar. The things that are different are the terminology and the little tweaks as far as the way you play certain things.

"My experience in the league has helped me a lot to be able to grasp what's going on and how we're doing it."

Page signed a 1-year deal with the Eagles after spending last season with the New England Patriots. A seventh-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 2006, Page started 32 games for the Chiefs in '07 and '08.

But he fell into disfavor with new head coach Todd Haley five games into the '09 season. Got into an argument with Haley over his treatment of players and was promptly put on injured reserve with a nonexistent calf injury, which was intended to send a message to the rest of the team.

A restricted free agent last summer, Page asked to be traded and held out of training camp. After he signed his tender offer, the Chiefs traded him to the Patriots, where he spent the year backing up starters Brandon Merriweather and Patrick Chung and playing special teams.

"Jarrad is very physical, very smart," said Bill Kuharich, who was the Chiefs' player personnel chief when the club drafted him. "He has tremendous ball skills.

"If there's a chink in his armor, he sometimes anticipates too quickly, and that gets him in trouble. Especially in play-action. Because he's such a physical guy and likes contact, he'll get caught at times. That said, looking at the safeties the Eagles have on their roster, he's better than all of them. It's not even close."

Page played baseball and football at UCLA. He was the Bruins' starting centerfielder and was drafted three times to play baseball - by Milwaukee in 2002, Colorado in '05 and the Angels in '06.

"His draft stock dropped because of baseball," Kuharich said. "He was a really good baseball player. Nobody had a timed speed on him because he was never in spring ball. No one was quite sure how committed he was to playing football."

Ultimately, he became very committed. He passed on baseball and signed with the Chiefs, who got a seventh-round bargain, and notched 10 interceptions in his first three seasons there.

"He's a very good player," said Herm Edwards, who was the Chiefs' head coach for Page's first 3 years in Kansas City. "You can put him out in space where he can cover a tight end. He's done that. He can also play in the box.

"When he just reacts to the football and plays the ball, that's what he does best. He can really play the football. He's got good hands. He really has the body type to play linebacker, but he can play the safety position. He's got good range when he's in the middle of the field."

Edwards was a player's coach. His replacement, Haley, came in with a dictatorial style that rubbed a lot of players, including Page, the wrong way.

At a team meeting during the Chiefs' bye week in 2009, Haley told the players that anybody who wanted to talk to him should come to his office and see him. Page did, and their discussion quickly disintegrated into a shouting match.

"I think it was more of a personality deal," Edwards said. "Sometimes that happens. Jarrad's a very smart guy. He's going to ask questions. Sometimes, that just doesn't work out for some reason or another."

It could end up working out just great for the Eagles.


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