Defensive lineman Brandon Bair has a shot at making Eagles

Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Bair pressures Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in Thursday's game.
Eagles defensive lineman Brandon Bair pressures Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in Thursday's game. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: August 26, 2014

Brandon Bair has a side business selling used cars. The Eagles defensive linemen started by finding a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado and identifying an opportunity where others saw junk. He made $700.

So Bair could probably relate to the Eagles taking a 29-year-old defensive lineman who has never played in a regular-season game and was discarded by two teams, and turning him into a reserve lineman after one year on the practice squad.

The 53-man roster will not be set until Saturday, and the Eagles will have difficult decisions to make on the defensive line. But Bair, who played for coach Chip Kelly at Oregon, will likely secure one of the defensive line spots.

"He's really what a two-gapper mostly looks like," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "Brandon has just steadily gotten better. He's a hard worker, highly intelligent guy. So he's a great addition. Am I surprised? No, I'm not surprised. It's about what I expected from watching him from last year."

Bair joined the Eagles' practice squad last season after stints with Oakland and Kansas City. He reunited in Philadelphia with Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro and readjusted to a familiar system.

Three of the Eagles' four top defensive linemen predated Kelly's arrival and were acquired to play in former defensive line coach Jim Washburn's system. Bair, at 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, fits what the Eagles look for in a defensive end. The two-gap ability is hard to find, requiring a player to be responsible for gaps on both sides of a blocker.

"I think it's just more patience than anything," Bair said. "It's tough - two-gap is just an interesting position. Most people are really good at getting off the ball and getting up field and making plays, but to be a two-gap, you've just go to be selfless and basically take up guys so the linebackers can come free."

Bair has stood out during the preseason and rotated in with the first team during Thursday's win over Pittsburgh. Kelly said Bair has "done a really good job in all three games he's played."

Although Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, and Bennie Logan are the starters, Davis is committed to rotating players and using the allotment of defensive players who are active on Sundays.

The Eagles have nine defensive linemen and will likely carry seven or eight on the 53-man roster. Bair is more than three years older than any other player in his position meetings. Considering that he's never played in the NFL and will be 30 by the end of the season, a younger player would present more potential for the Eagles as a reserve lineman.

That's not how the Eagles are thinking. When asked how Bair's age will be factored into a roster determination, Kelly joked that he hopes Bair doesn't age four or five years this season.

"My concern is the season," Kelly said. "So I think if he continues to put himself in positions to play, then our focus with those guys is what's going to help us immediately. We're not building for the future. Our future is right now."

Bair's closest chance to play in an NFL game was in 2011 when he was on the Chiefs' 53-man roster. He was never active on game day. He spent 2012 on the Raiders' practice squad before he was activated in the final week of the season. When he suffered a hamstring injury last summer, Bair feared he might not get a chance again at an NFL roster.

"Fortunately for me, Chip and [Azzinaro] came into the NFL," Bair said.

He never thought he would make the NFL in the first place, which is why he started side businesses. In addition to the used car dealership, Bair has rental properties and a training facility. Managers tend to those business while Bair focuses on football, and it looks as if his career might extend longer than it seemed last summer.

"I don't know if it's clicked yet," Bair said. "Rosters haven't been made yet."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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