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!
Wow somebody sounds bitter. I like what Bishop is doing and he still has a ways to go as far as maturity. Maturity sometimes is what keeps you off the field. The Packers have done a good job preparing Bishop for his opportunity and sure he has got something to prove and he plays with a chip on his shoulder. If his opportunity had come sooner there is no guarantee the what you see not is what you would have gotten then. And Hawk in his expanded role has been far from bust and you make yourself look more ignorant in even bringing that into this story! Dont be such a hater!!!!!! I for one would still take the decisions of the Packers staff over your foolish nitpicking!!!!
Hey there, nice entry here. I’m fairly new to following this blog and I really like what I’m reading, for the most part… One question I still have is, what is your problem with AJ Hawk? I feel like his career was off to a show start at first, but in the last 20-25 games he has made big play after big play. He has also gotten a lot better in coverage, although the lack of speed is still an issue. Bottom line, the guy has instincts and always seems to be there in the run game. But overall, great writing. Keep it coming. GO PACK!
Yeah…I’d have to agree. I wouldn’t be pointing that idiot finger at anyone else first. Are you seriously going to bitch about the fact that the fourth inside linebacker on the depth chart is just as good as the 1-3. I think any of the four inside linebackers are about equal. I don’t see any one of them being head and shoulder better than the other. Bishop surely has looked good, and does look a little more stout and physical.
Are you a packer fan?
My thought was that he was held off the field because he gave up that big run to Chester Taylor in his previous stint at playing. It’s like that one play stigmatized the coaching staff into thinking he wasn’t assignment sure and couldn’t be trusted. Well that was then and this is now. Even then, he was coming in off the bench somewhat cold, that play was early in his reps, but he was solid the rest of that game.
All I can say is I’m glad we kept him around and it didn’t take him leaving to another team to appreciate what a stud he’s become.
We’ve lacked a physical presence at ILB for quite some time.
The Packers could have easily lost him, they had to release Tracy White to make room him on the roster when they couldn’t hide him on the practice squad.
Makes me wonder if we’ll be able to keep him. He has got to feel some bitterness at being the forgotten man for so long. The comments about his willingness to be traded, and how draft position determined playing time, etc.
Prior to the last few games, Hawk generally stood out for more bad things than good. However, AJ has been a standout the last few games. And despite his (frequent) shortcomings in pass coverage, he’s doing a helluva job against the run. By and large that makes him serviceable in my book.
I think the previous scrutiny was justified, but right now he’s one of our better players.
Calling AJ Hawk a bust is bullshit. Being a 1st round pick doesn’t guarantee greatness. The guy is assignment sure, a good tackler, and not a big liability in pass defense. Most importantly, he is a solid guy, a team player, and he shows up and plays every frickin week.
Comparing a guy who is a solid LB and has even garnered his share of Pro Bowl votes to true busts like Ernie Sims, Brian Bosworth, etc. etc. etc… Get real.
Desmond Bishop was a great player in the preseason, but he had his chances in real games and he basically gave the coaches no reason to bench a veteran for him. Maybe it is his contract situation, maybe it is just that he is a slow learner, but I am glad he is finally showing what he can do.
Lastly, ripping the Packers’ coaching staff for not playing young players has to be some sort of joke. This coaching staff has NO reluctance to rely on young players. See Mike Holmgren’s coaching staff once.
Keeping Hawk on the field is a piece of the puzzle that equals wins for us. I don’t think he is a bust…getting rid of him would be though.