Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Bishop Has Been Impressive Early On
Third-year linebacker looks like good fit for 3-4
If linebacker Desmond Bishop keeps playing the way he has in the early days of training camp, he's going to force the Green Bay Packers to play him - somewhere, somehow.
Nobody on defense has proved to be more physical or more improved since camp opened than the 6-2, 238-pound Bishop. Whether it's decking running back DeShawn Wynn and causing a fumble on Monday or executing a shock-and-rip move on fullback Korey Hall during a blitz drill, the third-year pro is making a case for himself early.
"That's what I'm out there doing for the most part," Bishop said. "I'm sure things go into it. I'm trying to find a spot for me. I don't have to be the starter or an every-down (guy), I just want an opportunity to get out there and play a little bit and contribute."
Bishop is listed on the depth chart behind A.J. Hawk at the "Mack" inside position, which in the 3-4 defense equates somewhat to the weakside position in a 4-3. He is also learning the other inside position, the "Buck," which is being manned by Brandon Chillar while starter Nick Barnett rehabilitates his knee.
Last year, the Packers got a taste of what Bishop could do when he replaced the injured Barnett in a game against the Minnesota Vikings Nov. 9. Early on, Bishop performed like a guy who hadn't played in awhile, allowing running back Chester Taylor to catch a pass in the flat and run by him for a 47-yard touchdown and abandoning his gap on running back Adrian Peterson's game-winning 29-yard touchdown run.
However, he was also personally responsible for stopping running back Adrian Peterson on a key fourth-and-1 play, knocking the ball out of Peterson's hands while trying to bring him down, and totaled nine tackles. The blown plays overshadowed the good ones and the Packers moved Hawk to the middle because they didn't think Bishop could handle the starting assignment.
Built compactly, the knock on Bishop coming out of college was his lack of speed and that hurt him in the previous system. But in the 3-4, Bishop looks to be a good match because most of the pass coverage at his position is zone, so he won't get exposed as often by guys like Taylor.
And the key ingredient to making the thing work is blitzing, something Bishop definitely can do.
"I think I have a knack for blitzing. I think I always have," Bishop said. "Really from a timing aspect, I have a knack for how to disguise it good and knowing when the quarterback is in his cadence when he's going to snap the ball."
He also has the ability to run through or around guys. In the first practice, he knocked guard Josh Sitton back to the quarterback during a blitz period and on the very next play threw a head-and-body fake that froze Sitton and allowed him to run right to the quarterback.
"People call it the crossover," Bishop said of the latter move. "I play basketball a lot, so I think that's kind of helped me. I've been playing basketball since I've been younger. In basketball, you have to go around people with a basketball. So here you don't have a basketball and it's that much easier."
Wynn, who is arguably the team's best pass blocking running back, keeps having to take on Bishop, and he admits he's getting tired of it. Bishop came so hard one time, that when he collided with Wynn his helmet went flying like it was shot out of a cannon. Bishop isn't the only guy who can blitz, but when you line him up with the team's best, he's not very far from the front.
"When you're a running back, you're basically standing flat-footed and you have a guy who can run into your chest and catch you off balance or if you lean looking for the bull rush, he can run by you," Wynn said. "Desmond Bishop, he has a variety of different things. He does the bull rush good, but he's also quick to get a running back to set his feet and beat him either way."
Bishop spent his summer in Arizona working with a personal trainer on his quickness and agility and feels he's better prepared than he was a year ago. There's a long way to go until the season starts, but given the importance defensive coordinator Dom Capers puts on blitzing, Bishop could find himself replacing Hawk or Barnett in certain passing situations.
For now, he just wants to make sure the coaches notice him. So far, so good.