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LB Bishop Pushing For Expanded Role In '09


Like a lot of young players, linebacker Desmond Bishop's biggest contributions early on in his career have come on special teams.

Now entering his third season in the league and his first in new defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 scheme, Bishop is looking to make a bigger impact on defense in 2009.

Through the first week and a half of training camp, Bishop has been working primarily at the 'Buck' linebacker spot, the strong side position on the inside, as the backup to A.J. Hawk.

"Desmond Bishop has had an outstanding training camp," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think everybody recognizes the fact that he is an exceptional pressure player. He seems very comfortable in our scheme."

The 6-foot-2, 238-pound Bishop is known for his athletic ability and physical nature, which fits well in Capers' defense.

"He's got very good quickness," Capers said. "I think he's a good blitzer and has proven he can blitz. I've been encouraged by him. He just has to continue to work to make sure he is consistent on all of the assignments because we have installed so much here in a short period of time."

Bishop made his mark on the Packers' special-teams units in his first two seasons, posting a career-high 15 tackles in 2008 after registering 12 as a rookie in '07. He also received some opportunities on defense last season with injuries to the linebacking corps, with his first significant action coming in Week 10 at Minnesota when starting middle linebacker Nick Barnett went down with a season-ending torn ACL.

Bishop's day at Minnesota got off to an inauspicious start. On his first play filling in for Barnett, quarterback Gus Frerotte threw a short pass to his left to running back Chester Taylor on third down. Taylor cut toward the sideline and planted, and Bishop overran the play, allowing Taylor to go down the sideline 47 yards for the score and a 21-10 lead.

But later in the game Bishop bounced back, forcing a fumble by Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson on a 4th-and-1 at Minnesota's 41-yard line. The fumble was recovered by the Vikings, but was short of the first down, giving the Packers possession.

"I just learned to always be ready," Bishop said of the experience. "It's easier said than done, but I kind of learned that no matter what, when your number is called, you've got to be ready from the first play to the last snap.

"It benefited me a great deal, especially the first game getting in and going against arguably one of the greatest running backs in the NFL, and actually doing pretty good. It taught me a lot."

Bishop went on to lead the Packers with three forced fumbles in 2008, including a career-best two vs. Houston in Week 14 when he opened up on the weak side in place of an injured Brandon Chillar. Despite also posting a career-high 12 tackles, Bishop's afternoon was not all positive with a blown assignment that allowed tight end Owen Daniels to break free for a 27-yard pickup that set up the Texans' game-winning field goal as time expired.

"I think he has improved the coverage part of it," McCarthy said. "For him playing in the old scheme probably helped him as far as the training he had in that particular area. Playing with vision for Desmond Bishop, he is a very instinctive football player."

Bishop agreed that the switch to more zone coverage in Capers' scheme has benefited him.

"Last year we were kind of just man coverage across the board, but this defense gives me a chance to use my instincts," Bishop said. "It's just good to get out there and drop back in zone and read the quarterback and read routes."

While Bishop has primarily played behind Hawk at the Buck position, he said that he doesn't approach at as if he is competing with him for playing time.

"I couldn't say I'm really pushing specifically one person," Bishop said. "Anybody playing linebacker, I'm pushing everybody. I'm pushing everybody to be better and I'm pushing myself to be better and hopefully in exchange I can get some playing time."

{sportsad300}Bishop has also taken some snaps at the weak-side spot on the inside, the 'Mack', during training camp, providing flexibility that Capers said will come in handy on gamedays when the Packers can only have so many linebackers up on the active roster. The amount of sub packages in Capers' 3-4 should also provide for additional opportunities for playing time.

"He's worked at both the Buck and the Mack, and he's going to have to be able to do that," Capers said. "Once we get into the season you become so limited in your numbers that guys are going to have to be able to cross-train and play both positions.

"I think anybody that has rush and coverage ability and has some explosiveness and quickness will certainly factor into our sub packages. We're trying to get as much athletic ability and speed and quickness in our sub packages as we can."

The chance to show what he can bring to the defense starts in earnest for Bishop on Saturday with the preseason opener vs. Cleveland. No one on the Packers' current roster has posted more tackles during the last two preseasons than Bishop's 28, but this year he hopes to make strong play there the beginning of something that will continue all season.

"For the past few years, preseason has kind of been my season," Bishop said. "A lot of vets are like, 'Oh, this is just preseason game No. 1.' To me, this is game No. 1. That's how I approach it and I am ready to go."

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