Nick Fairley's talent has never been a question. Motor, consistency and drive have been the stumbling blocks of a career left wanting.
"Now that he's down, they told me I was going to have to take on (more) of the load," Fairley told The Times-Picayune. "So, I'm ready for it. I just got to get into better shape and keep going."
Fairley looked spry in two preseason games. In Saturday's preseason loss to the Houston Texans, Fairley compiled four tackles, one for loss, earned a sack and disrupted several other plays with penetration in 19 snaps.
The former first-round pick has always boasted a quick burst, but he's lacked consistency and an ability to be an every-down player. With Rankins' injury, Fairley knows he needs to improve his stamina.
"I know I need to get in better shape," he said after the game.
Fairley admitted on Tuesday he's "far" from the player he wants to be.
"He's active; he's athletic," coach Sean Payton said. "When he wins, he usually wins in the first second of the play or first second and a half of the play. So, he's pretty quick. I'd say he's got pretty good football IQ. In other words, he's experienced and he's able to recognize schemes, as to if it is run, what type of run it is. But, he had some good production in that last game."
This isn't the first time Fairley has looked good in spurts. Prior to a knee injury in 2014, his final year in Detroit, Fairley looked dominant for the balance of eight games, blowing up plays with early penetration. Over the duration of his career, however, he's never been able to play at a consistent pace to warrant playing every snap.
The role he was brought to New Orleans to play -- that of a rotational player, especially in passing situations -- was ideal for Fairley. Injuries have changed the plan. Now the former first-round pick needs to prove he can handle the load.