Brandon Bair spent Weeks 1 and 2 in a jumpsuit, forced to helplessly watch both of his team's losses from the sideline as a healthy member of the inactive list. But after injuries to starting left defensive end Cedric Thornton (hand) and his backup Taylor Hart (shoulder), the veteran lineman's number was called against the 2-0 Jets on Sunday.
The 30-year-old's 6-6, 290-pound frame makes him a load to handle for opposing offensive lines and a burdensome obstruction for quarterbacks looking for a lane through which to throw. Making his first career start against the Jets on Sunday, Bair made four tackles and deflected three passes in a 24-17 win.
"One of the points of emphasis this week is that if the ball's out quick, we may not be able to get to (the quarterback) with a pass rush," head coach Chip Kelly explained. "We need to clog the throwing lanes for (Ryan Fitzpatrick). It takes kind of a little bit of a knack to start to pass rush and get a feel for the timing in your head and get your hands up, and Brandon does have a knack for it. ... If you're not going to get to the quarterback, 'Can you disrupt his timing, and can you disrupt the throwing lanes?' and I thought he did that."
Asked after the game about his propensity for batting down passes, Bair smiled and joked that his length is all he's got since he "isn't a very good pass rusher."
"This was my first game this year, and we're expected to make things happen when we get an opportunity," he continued. "When you've got the guys next to you, you don't have to worry about taking care of anyone else's job. You can just focus on what you have to do, and good things will happen when you do that."
After a crucial turnover by the Eagles with 6:28 remaining and their lead trimmed to 24-14, Bair forced a turnover of his own. He got his hand on a Fitzpatrick pass intended for wide receiver Brandon Marshall which caused the ball to pop up into the air and into the outstretched arms of rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks. The interception helped seal the game for Philadelphia, who now sit at 1-2 in a wide-open NFC East.
"It's a lot easier to get things done up front when you've got coverage like we do behind us," he said of Byron Maxwell, Nolan Carroll and the rest of an Eagles defensive backfield that largely kept the Jets in check on Sunday. "The best opportunity for a defense, if the offense just had a turnover, is to come out and do the same thing. We were able to come back out and put us in a good spot."
With Thornton and Hart both likely to return in the coming weeks, it remains to be seen how Bair will figure into the defensive line rotation in the immediate future. But no matter what is asked of the veteran end, he'll be ready to contribute.
The Eagles traveled to New York to face the Jets in Week 3 of the regular season. View the full gallery here...