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Hairston to step in for Bell at LT


He only got a chance to play the last five snaps on offense last Sunday when Demetrius Bell went down with a right shoulder injury in Cincinnati, but come this weekend rookie Chris Hairston will be getting a whole lot more time at left tackle.

Head coach Chan Gailey declared Bell out for this week's home game against Philadelphia. So while Bell rehabs his injured shoulder, Hairston will be making his first career NFL start.

"It's something I've been working toward since I got here," said Hairston. "Just being picked up here it's good to know they have the confidence in me to stick me right in there when Demetrius Bell has been having a great year. I hate that him getting an injury is what's giving me this opportunity, but I'll take advantage of it and do what I can to help this team win."

In addition to the five snaps he got Sunday, Hairston also got some work late in the opening week blowout win at Kansas City. Beyond that Hairston has been trying to sharpen his game in the practice setting this first month of the season.

"Any time you're playing against guys like (Chris) Kelsay and Shawne Merriman and (Alex) Carrington and (Danny) Batten, practicing against those guys full speed is going to help you become a better player and that's what it's helped me do," he said.

During Sunday's game Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't even recognize that Hairston was manning the left tackle spot.

"I didn't really notice, which is a good thing probably," Fitzpatrick said. "He was just in there for a few snaps at the end and he filled in. It's always tough coming into a game, not only as a rookie, but after standing on the sideline all game it's tough to do that. I think the fact that I didn't really notice him is a good thing."

As brief as Sunday's work was for Hairston, the fourth-round pick is glad he got some time leading up to this weekend's game against the Eagles.

"Any time you can get into a game when it's really on the line and it matters is always a plus," said Hairston. "Playing against a guy, even though I didn't get many snaps, like Michael Johnson really helped me understand that every team has a great end. Just watching film a little bit on the Eagles has helped me get ready. I'm just ready to play ball."

In facing Philadelphia it appears as though Hairston might be getting a fortunate break. Trent Cole, arguably the Eagles' best speed rusher is not expected to play due to a Grade 2 calf sprain suffered on Sunday against San Francisco. Cole had a sack in each of the Eagles' first three games. His backup Darryl Tapp is returning from injury after missing the past two games.

Their other reserve defensive end Juqua Parker has also been out with a high ankle sprain, leaving Philadelphia with just two healthy defensive ends at the moment in Jason Babin and rookie Phillip Hunt.

Babin leads the Eagles and the league with seven sacks after logging three last week against the 49ers.

Either way Gailey knows Hairston will be challenged as the Eagles are likely to flip Babin to Hairston's side of the formation at times.

"I feel ready to be put in a position where the team has to count on me to go out there and produce," said Hairston.

"This will be a big test for him," said Gailey. "He's improved. He didn't get much work early in camp so we've had to get him his work during the season more so and he's improved."

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