Senior writer jclombardi profiles LB Bishop and WR Jones.
Packers Linebacker Bishop finally gets his chance: Sitting in his locker with ice bags on one of his knees, a hip and a shoulder, linebacker Desmond Bishop looked like he definitely got the worst against the New York Jets. Looks, however, can be deceiving. The other guys’ running backs managed just 74 yards rushing on 22 carries, and Bishop was a major factor in the Packers shutting out the Jets’ offense. He finished with a game-high 13 tackles and broke up two passes including a clutch third-and-1 deflection late in the first half that assured the Jets would remain behind, 3-0. Since he became the starter for injured Nick Barnett, Bishop often comes out of the training room after games entombed in icepacks. He wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s a physical game,” Bishop said. The 6-foot-2, 238-pound inside linebacker’s speed has been questioned, his over-zealousness has gotten him in trouble and his inconsistency has been mentioned often. But his tackling has never been doubted. “He’s a play-making tackler,” inside linebackers coach Winston Moss said. Bishop has started five games, and those plays that kept making people wonder if he could be trusted as a starter are few and far between. He has had double-digit tackles in four of those games, and scored his first touchdown off an interception thrown by Minnesota quarterback Favre. He has five tackles behind the line of scrimmage to go with two sacks, five quarterback hits, one forced fumble and five pass breakups. All those concerns about him being able to play well on a consistent basis are starting to fade away. Bishop insertion into the defense has added some punch. “Desmond has turned the corner from an execution standpoint, really doing a good job not only executing his assignments but still playing with playmaking mentality,” Moss said. “So I’m very pleased how he’s been able to step in and add another dimension to our group.”
He’s up, he’s down, he’s James Jones–inconsistency a problem for Packers wide receiver: Philbin, the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator, was asked recently how to get more consistency out of fourth-year wide receiver James Jones. Philbin paused, turned a bright shade of red, then realized he didn’t really have an answer. “It’s a good question,” Philbin said. “It’s one of those things.?.?.?if I had that answer I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.” But he is. And with Jones now 54 games into his Green Bay career, the Packers still can’t fully trust him. The past four games are a perfect example of why Jones has yet to win over his bosses. In wins against Dallas on Sunday and Minnesota on Oct. 24, Jones was terrific. He caught 12 passes for 230 yards and one touchdown in those two games, highlighted by a career performance (8-123-1) against Dallas. In the other two games – a loss to Miami on Oct. 17 and a win at the New York Jets on Oct. 31 – Jones was blanked. That’s why no one – not even Jones himself – is fully sure how to get more evenness in his play. “James Jones could play better, yes,” Jones said. “But James Jones believes to be up, you need opportunities. I can’t throw the ball to myself. I can’t do that.”
COMMENTARY: LB Bishop and WR Jones are great players and have great futures with the Packers. As far as LB Bishop, he should have played more from day one in games. Further, LB Bishop’s play has improved an inconsistent unnamed ILB in the lineup who gets no negative press. WR Jones is right to say that experiences and opportunities improve players overall performances. Meanwhile, the Packers have experienced depth at two key starting positions with two playmaking veterans who would start for any other NFL team. The question may be, “Where will the Packers put LB Barnett when he comes back from his injury year.”