Bishop's play makes for tough choice at LB

The Packers will have to decide between Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop at weak-side linebacker. Will they choose the assignment-sure Chillar or the big-play potential of Bishop?

"That's an excellent question," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Thursday.

The question was who he planned on starting at weak-side linebacker on Sunday at Jacksonville: steady, assignment-sure Brandon Chillar or big-play performer Desmond Bishop.

Chillar missed last week's game against Houston because of a strained groin, and if Thursday's practice was any indication, Chillar is ready.

"He was flying around and made a couple plays in the blitz drill," McCarthy said. "Actually made a play in the blitz drill against us. He looked like he was back to full speed. I'll be curious how his body responds (Friday). That will be the big test."

Chillar's major asset is his ability to cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game, an attribute the Packers have sorely lacked from their linebackers this season.

The other option is the 24-year-old Bishop, who filled in for the 26-year-old Chillar against the Texans. Bishop has played a significant number of snaps in two games this season — at Minnesota and last week against Houston. In both games, he made a key short-yardage stop on a running play and forced a fumble. Bishop's two forced fumbles are more than the ballyhooed duo of Nick Barnett (one forced fumble in nine games) and A.J. Hawk (none in 13) have combined.

But for as much impact as Bishop made last week — he also had a team-high 12 tackles and the Packers' only sack — his inexperience has come into play in both games. Against Minnesota, on his first snap in place of Barnett, he whiffed on a tackle attempt of Chester Taylor and Taylor ran for a key 47-yard touchdown. He also got caught inside on Adrian Peterson's winning touchdown run. Against Houston, the Packers blitzed and Bishop yielded a pivotal 27-yard reception to Owen Daniels.

"At the end of the day, you want to win, and no matter what you do, if you don't get the win, it takes away from some of the good things you did," Bishop said. "You can get 100 tackles, 100 sacks, 100 interceptions, but at the end of the day if you lose, it takes away from it because winning is the most important thing."

Assuming Chillar makes it through the week healthy, McCarthy faces a difficult decision. Even with the team reeling at 5-8, McCarthy said winning remains the objective. Thus, Chillar, because he makes so few mistakes, probably is the safer choice, especially with the receiver-depleted Jaguars likely to rely on their backs and tight ends to make plays in the passing game.

But Bishop, a sixth-round pick in 2007, has shown the type of hard-hitting impact the downtrodden defense has lacked. What better time to see if Bishop has what it takes to be a starter than to throw him in the fire in a regular-season game with little but pride on the line?

"He did a good job stepping in playing," Chillar said of Bishop. "We'll see where it leads us. I'll try to help the team however I can."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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