Big-Play Bishop Bids For Big Role

Third-year linebacker Desmond Bishop's big game against Cleveland was just part of his impact summer. But is there a role for him at a position that includes Nick Barnett, A.J. Hawk and Brandon Chillar?

Desmond Bishop laughed while pondering the question.

Do you do anything half-speed?

"No, I don't think so," was the reply.

Bishop was just minutes removed from inflicting plenty of full-speed-ahead punishment on the Cleveland Browns' quarterbacks during Saturday's preseason opener. For a defense that got to the quarterback about as often as the pope gets to Las Vegas during last year's 6-10 disappointment, it was a head-turning performance.

Four tackles, one interception, one sack and a whopping four quarterback hits.

"For me, it's kind of like my season," Bishop said. "Not to sound cocky, but I led the team in tackles the past two preseasons. Whenever I get in there and get an opportunity, I try to make the most of it."

Bishop's powerful performance against Cleveland was just his latest eye-opener of the summer. If there's been a big hit during training camp, No. 55 is inevitably the one doling out the punishment. If there's been a tackle made in the backfield or a quarterback being flushed from the pocket, odds are pretty good that Bishop is in the middle of that chaos, as well.

The film only confirmed what the naked eye saw live.

"Exactly what you saw: a lot of production," inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said. "He had opportunities and he made the most of the opportunities, and that's what you look for. There's going to be games where it's not going to develop like that, but what you really, really love is when a guy has an opportunity to make a play, he's going to make it. Desmond capitalizes on all of his opportunities to make plays."

When training camp started, Bishop was a good bet — but not a lock — to make the roster. A few weeks later, Bishop is a sure thing to make the roster and is making it known that, as a third-year player, he's ready to challenge former first-round picks Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk for playing time or even a spot in the starting lineup.

Why? Because Bishop doesn't do anything half-speed.

"He continues to show he's got a ton of ability," Moss said. "He's extremely impactful and he makes a lot of plays. There's a creativity about Bishop where he's not afraid to do something different on the field. Sometimes, it works in his favor, and then there's sometimes where he's out of adjustment. I like that about him and I like the attitude that he has."

Desmond Bishop blasts Reggie Williams.
Darren Hauck/AP Images
During a preseason game as a rookie in 2007, Bishop's big hits popped the helmet off of Jaguars receiver Reggie Williams not once but twice. He led the Packers in tackles during that preseason and finished among the leaders last season despite missing two games with an injury. On Saturday night, Bishop was arguably the best player on the field, with one of his hits on the quarterback causing an errant throw by Brady Quinn that was picked off by Tramon Williams.

About the only thing Bishop does at half-speed is talk. He knows he's in a delicate position of feeling like he's capable of being a starter but having entrenched veterans Barnett, Hawk and Brandon Chillar ahead of him.

"I could easily say be the starter, have 200 tackles," Bishop said of his goals for the season. "It's about the team. To win the Super Bowl, that's the No. 1 goal, and that's what I'm fighting for. Whatever it takes for me to help the team get to that level, that's a successful for me."

Still, Bishop believes he's "most definitely" ready to start. It's not easy to see why. Bishop's full-throttle style of play provides a start contrast to the cerebral approach employed by the player ahead of him at the "buck" inside position, Hawk.

When Hawk blitzes, he's more apt to try to make a move to get past the blocker. When Bishop blitzes, it's as if he's been shot out of a cannon. If there's a blocker in his path, there's going to a collision. On his sack against the Browns, Bishop simply sprinted through the diving block attempt of the running back.

"That's what blitzing is about," he said. "Rarely do you get a free shot at a quarterback, that perfect play. For the most part, it's winning that one-on-one. The offense pretty much always has a person for each blitzer, but the key objective is to win that one-on-one."

It's that physical style that makes Bishop such an intriguing prospect, as well as a standout special-teams performer the last two years. Last season, Bishop started only one game on defense and played in a handful of others but he forced three fumbles. Combined, the four other players who started games at linebacker — Barnett, Hawk, Chillar and Brady Poppinga — forced a total of three. However, he also got burned on passing plays by Minnesota's Chester Taylor and Houston's Owen Daniels. Taylor scored a touchdown and Daniels set up the winning points.

But Bishop says he's more explosive and more intelligent after studying the Patriots' linebackers as well as former Dolphins inside linebacker Zach Thomas.

"I think having a thumper, having someone that can intimidate a little bit, can change the momentum, change the dynamic of games," Bishop said. "I would love to be out there to take on that role. I'd embrace it. That's how I play."

Without tipping their hand, the coaches say they'll get Bishop on the field. One possibility is as a situational pass rusher, especially with nobody seizing control opposite left outside linebacker Aaron Kampman.

If that's his role, Bishop will sign up for duty. Full-speed ahead.

"I'm a player and I'm going to compete," he said. "From wherever on the field and whoever I have to defeat, I'm going to compete to the best of my ability. I believe I'd win more than I'd lose."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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