It was easy last year for Brandon Bair to go unnoticed.
He signed on to the Eagles’ practice squad in September, reuniting with his college coaches Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro. Bair was one of the players capable of going about his business in the locker room without being bothered.
Even last night after the team’s win over the Steelers, a couple reporters spotted him packing up his stuff and asked each other: “That’s Brandon Bair, right?”
But there’s a sense that things are about to change for the 29-year-old, given how well he has played this preseason. Against Pittsburgh, he was credited with a pair of batted passes and continued to be active against the run. Kelly consistently preaches that the Eagles’ defensive linemen are not just responsible for eating up blocks. He expects them to shed blocks and get to the ball-carrier. That’s something Bair has done consistently all preseason long.
“Got a chance,” said Bair, when asked why things are clicking now. “I just do my thing. This is a defense that I’m really familiar with. I’m a two-gapper. That’s a thing I love to do. I got an opportunity to go out and play, and that’s all I needed.”
Bair went on a two-year Mormon mission prior to attending Oregon. He signed with the Chiefs in 2011 and made their opening day roster. In 2012, he joined the Raiders’ practice squad.
Now, he is in line to be one of the more unlikely members of the Eagles’ 53-man roster.
“It was good to get back to that familiar defense, same coaching staff, same coach I had as a D-Line coach in college,” he said. “I knew what he expected of me. I knew what I needed to do. So from that point on, I knew it was gonna be a great opportunity for me, and whatever was gonna work out was gonna work out.”
Of course, there is the age issue. The Eagles have six defensive linemen – Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Cedric Thornton, Beau Allen, Taylor Hart and Vinny Curry – who are 26 or younger. All six appear to be locks to make the roster.
And then there’s Bair. Because of the roundabout journey he’s taken to land in Philadelphia, he’s older than the rest of the group, set to turn 30 in November. But Kelly sternly shot down the notion that Bair would be left off the roster because of his age.
“I hope he doesn’t age more than four or five years during the season,” Kelly said. “My concern is the season. 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.”
Added Allen: “We call him Papa Bair. We are a young group. He’s a little older, he’s in a different stage of his life. He’s got a great wife, three little girls, so it’s funny when we kind of joke around, talk about the young stuff or whatever, he reins us in. He’s a really, really good guy.
“He’s got really good technique. He’s doing exactly what the coaches are asking him. He’s a heady football player. He’s played in that scheme before and does a really good job pre-snap with everything.”
Bair and the Eagles get another week of practice before taking on the Jets in their preseason finale.
After that, it’ll be time to cut down the roster to 53. If Bair continues down his current path, chances are he’ll be in uniform at the Linc Week 1 when the Eagles host Jacksonville.