Having talked talk, Desmond Bishop now walking the walk : Packers Insider

Having talked talk, Desmond Bishop now walking the walk

October 28, 2010 by  
Filed under News

Oct 28, 2010 ~ by Jason Wilde

~GREEN BAY – Being an old linebacker himself – and one from the bravado capital of the college football world, the University of Miami (Fla.) – Winston Moss has always had an appreciation for players who can talk a good game, and then would back it up by playing one.

So maybe that’s why the Green Bay Packers inside linebackers coach has so thoroughly enjoyed watching Desmond Bishop the past three weeks, as the fourth-year linebacker has seized the opportunity he’s been clamoring for for the last several years.

“When his opportunity came up a few weeks ago, it was a great opportunity for me to tell him, ‘You’ve been waiting for this since you’ve been here. So you’re either going to respond at the highest level and be a man of your word, or you’re going to be a lot of nothing,’” Moss said as Bishop prepared to make his fourth consecutive start in place of injured Nick Barnett (wrist) Sunday when the Packers (4-3) travel to face the New York Jets (5-1) at the New Meadowlands Stadium.

“I just felt like a caged lion. And then sometimes I was thinking, ‘Well, maybe I’m not a lion. Maybe I’m a koala bear or something,’” Bishop said with a laugh

“The thing I’ve liked about this whole ride with him so far is, he’s been given a golden opportunity, and he’s taken advantage of it. So far.

 “It’s been good to see that. The challenge every single week, because (he’s one of those) young guys, is when you get that pat on the back, you tend to think, ‘OK, I can take it easy.’ Desmond, we have to see how he handles all his success.”

Considering the pressure he put on himself by repeatedly saying he was a starting-caliber player, Bishop has certainly handled his role – and his success – just fine.

“He is ready,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I am sure he felt that he was ready a long time ago.”

Indeed he did. But more on that in a moment. 

In Bishop’s three starts this season, he’s registered 40 tackles (13 at Washington on Oct. 10, 16 against Miami on Oct. 17 and 11 last Sunday night against Minnesota), one sack (on the Redskins’ Donovan McNabb) and Sunday night’s interception against Minnesota’s Brett Favre, which he returned 32 yards for a touchdown that proved to be the margin of victory.

Now that’s walking the walk after talking the talk.

“I did put some pressure on myself, because I’ve been saying what I can do but I haven’t actually gotten the opportunity to put it out there. So when I did get out there, there was pressure on me,” Bishop said. “But it was a good kind of pressure – the kind of pressure that motivates you to do well, as opposed to the pressure that makes you mess up. Yeah, I used it as motivation, I played to it, and now I’m trying to keep it rolling.

“(Waiting) sucked, for lack of a better word. But once the opportunity came, I used it as motivation to push me forward. The wait, I kind of used it as momentum.”

The knock on Bishop during his first three NFL seasons – he entered the league as the second of the Packers’ three sixth-round picks in 2007 – was that his big-play knack was overshadowed by his inability to be assignment-sure.

For instance, when pressed into duty after Barnett suffered a season-ending knee injury early in a Nov. 9, 2008 loss at Minnesota, Bishop recorded nine tackles and ripped the ball away from running back Adrian Peterson while stuffing Peterson on a fourth-down play. But Bishop also blew the containment on Chester Taylor on a pass in the left flat on the play after Barnett’s injury, allowing Taylor to turn a 5-yard completion into a 47-yard touchdown in the Packers’ 28-27 loss to the Vikings.

The coaches opted to start Brandon Chillar in Barnett’s place instead of Bishop after that, but when Chillar suffered a groin injury a few weeks later, Bishop made his first NFL start against the Houston Texans on Dec. 7.

In that game, Bishop had a team-high 11 tackles and again made some memorable plays – a third-down tackle-for-loss to force a punt on Houston’s second offensive series; a second-quarter goal-line strip of tight end Owen Daniels to prevent a touchdown; and his first NFL sack, as he threw quarterback Matt Schaub for a 6-yard loss midway through the second quarter.

But he also made mistakes. He allowed fullback Vonta Leach to carry him down the sideline for a 21-yard gain, which Bishop made worse with a 15-yard personal-foul facemask penalty to set up a field goal; then, with 1:08 left in the game, he blew the coverage on Daniels on a second-and-6 play from the Texans’ 48-yard line, leading to a 27-yard gain that set up the game-winning field goal.

In Bishop’s estimation, the coaches used those two instances – fairly or not – as their reasoning for keeping him on the bench.

“You know, perception is reality, so that was just the perception,” Bishop said. “I’m definitely a better player now, mentally and physically. You get better with more experience. But I’m really the same player. The whole notion of not being assignment-sure … I can say I am in the right places now, but only because I’m getting experience and I’m studying more as opposed to then, when I was backing up everybody, learning five positions, and they’d throw me in. That’s then, this is now.”

Bishop confessed that he grew frustrated with his role as a situational backup and special-teams player, and wondered whether his future would be in Green Bay. During training camp, he was supposed to compete with A.J. Hawk for the starting job alongside Barnett, but the competition never materialized, and what Bishop did in preseason games wasn’t impressive enough to unseat Hawk. Chillar, meanwhile, got the nod as the nickel inside linebacker along with Barnett until a Sept. 27 shoulder injury. 

“The thing that’s misleading about the preseason is that you’re not game planning, you’re probably playing against second-tier players, and you’re playing against a lesser focused opponent. So I’ve never put too much emphasis on evaluation of the preseason,” Moss said. “(But) fate has it that we’ve had Nick go down, we’ve had Chillar have his situation with his shoulder. 

“To his credit, Desmond’s always been a guy that’s worked hard. He took it upon himself (to say), ‘If those guys are going to give me the opportunity, I’m going to put myself in position to where if I’m called upon, I’m going to respond. My Achilles’ heel has always been (to) get a play but give up a play as well. I’ve got to get over that hump.’ He took that as a challenge and he’s responded with being able to really focus and be detailed on what he’s doing. 

“When he’s been a role player, or a couple years ago when he started (that) game, those critical errors would come up at the poorest of times, especially in situations at the end of games that were really, really detrimental. Now that he’s a starter, he’s been able to do a great job of maintaining a high level of detail and efficiency while keeping that playmaker mentality.”

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