I’ve always questioned the Green Bay Packers coaching staff and their reluctance to give young players a shot when those players were behind veterans on the depth chart.
Mike McCarthy and company always have some reason to stick with the veteran over the young guy, even when the young guy has a similar talent level.
Sure, I understand experience is a valuable commodity that can’t be measured, but I also understand you don’t acquire experience if you can’t get on the field.
Enter inside linebacker Desmond Bishop.
Bishop has been a terror in the preseason for the Packers, playing well in camp and blowing up play after play in games, starting in his second season. However, when the regular season rolled around, the Packers rarely gave Bishop a shot to play on defense.
Instead, the coaching staff stood by first-round bust A.J. Hawk and a guy who’s now suffered two season-ending injuries in Nick Barnett. If you read this blog, you know how we feel about Hawk — the choice of adjectives above should summarize.
Barnett, on the other hand, has been uneven when he’s been able to stay healthy. 2007 was Barnett’s best season statistically, when he played 16 games and had 131 tackles (102 solo), 3.5 sacks and two interceptions.
Last season, Barnett rebounded from a torn ACL to record 105 tackles and four sacks, but wasn’t exactly spectacular. In fact, when paired with Hawk, the Packers probably had the two most mediocre, if solid starting inside linebackers in the NFL.
Barnett went on injured reserve after the Packers’ fourth game, this season, finally giving Bishop the shot to play he’s long been clamoring for and the coaching staff has long denied him. Hell, with Brandon Chillar injured for several games, McCarthy and company had no choice but to put Bishop in the starting lineup.
Bishop has made the most of the opportunity, filling in admirably for Barnett. In four starts, Bishop has 41 tackles, a sack and an interception, which he returned for a touchdown. To say Bishop has performed better than anyone expected would be a slight understatement, even considering his perennially strong preseason play.
With Bishop, the surprise comes because he’s been an unknown commodity in the regular season. The coaches simply wouldn’t put him on the field in his three previous seasons with the Packers and that’s starting to look like a pretty stupid move.
In four starts this season, Barnett recorded 24 tackles, no sacks and no interceptions. It’s true, Barnett is the vocal leader of the Packers defense, but the stats don’t lie.
Bishop has outperformed Barnett by a wide margin. It’s not just the stat line, either.
Bishop has simply made more big-time plays than Barnett, this season. He’s been solid in coverage, which has limited Chillar’s role, and he’s been strong against the run.
In his four starts, Bishop has lead the Packers in tackles twice and finished second twice. In his four games, Barnett lead the team in tackles once and finished second once.
So, why did it take a series of injuries for a guy with obvious talent, who’s entering his prime at 26-years-old, to get on the field?
Well, I’d say the Packers’ brain trust isn’t made up of the brightest bulbs on the porch, but I think that point has been made.
But hey, at least the team has depth!