What Nick Fairley does best, is exactly what the New Orleans Saints told him he would do when he visited the team as a free agent.
"When I came in for the meeting during the offseason, they told me they were going to get into an attack defense up front, get in the backfield three yards, cause havoc and be disruptive," he said. "As a player, that's (been) my career, being able to get in the backfield and play off the block, get in their backfield and make havoc."
Exhibit A, so far, was New Orleans' preseason game against the Texans, a 16-9 loss on Saturday night at NRG Stadium in Houston.
Limited snaps didn't limit Fairley's impact – four tackles, a sack (for minus-four yards), a tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry in the first half, spearheading a Saints defense forced three punts, produced an interception by P.J. Williams, and gave up a short-field touchdown drive (39 yards) after a fumbled punt.
"Nick Fairley played a heck of a game," defensive end Cam Jordan said. "We know that he's a talent that can change games.
"Big Nick, he's a veteran of the game. He's six years in, he was the 13th overall pick in 2011. With Nick hitting the field, he makes a lot of plays in the backfield, and that's exciting. Whether that's sacks, TFLs (tackles for loss) or just disruption. He's a big, disruptive force and you can't do anything but drool over that."
That's the kind of praise Fairley was drawing upon his arrival in the NFL, in '11. He starred at Auburn, led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship in 2010, and after a slow start as a rookie with the Lions, tallied 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery and then six sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his next two seasons, respectively.
The opportunity to do even more for the Saints presented itself when rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins broke his fibula eight days ago, during a goal-line drill during practice at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
"They told me when he went down, he was up to No. 1 and with me being backup," Fairley said. "Now, they told me going to have to take up the load. I'm ready for it. I've just got to get in better shape and keep going."
So far, teammates and coaches have been pleased with what they're seeing.
"He's active, he's athletic," Coach Sean Payton said. "When he wins, he usually wins in the first second of the play, second-and-a-half of the play. He's pretty quick.
"I'd say he's got pretty good football IQ. He's experienced and he's able to recognize schemes as to, if it is run, what type of run it is."
What remains is to see how far, and fast, Fairley runs with his latest opportunity.
"I feel good," he said. "I've got a lot of improving to do, though. My technique, fundamentals – when the going gets tough, I've got to focus technique-wise and make some plays."