The Green Bay Packers released inside linebacker Desmond Bishop on Monday, nearly one year after Bishop suffered a season-ending hamstring injury during Packer training camp last August. The Packers, who currently lack experience and a sufficient amount of talent, will open training camp in late July with a busy position battle at inside linebacker between A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Rob Francois, Jamari Lattimore, and Terrell Manning .
Bishop, selected by the Packers in the 6th round of the 2007 NFL Draft, will be entering his 6th NFL playing season. In five seasons with the Packers, Bishop recorded 292 total tackles and nine sacks.
Bishop didn’t become a full-time defensive starter for the Packers until 2010, after starter Nick Barnett was lost to a season-ending wrist injury four weeks into the season. In his final two years as a Packer starter, Bishop recorded 218 tackles and eight sacks, and became quite the defensive leader for the Packer defense, including making some key plays in the Packers' Super Bowl run (at Philadelphia, Wild Card Round, video above).
In four postseason games during the Packers Super Bowl XLV run, Bishop recorded 26 total tackles, one sack, recovered two fumbles, and forced one fumble. Bishop wasn’t an NFL superstar linebacker, but he was the kind of role player perfect for the Packer defense. Bishop brought great energy, intelligence, and an attitude to the defense. So who will replace Bishop?
Most likely, returning starter A.J. Hawk will maintain one of the two starting inside linebacker positions. Four players will compete for the other starting spot, and each player brings both a positive and negative to the defense.
Brad Jones versatility makes him the safe choice to start opposite of Hawk, and his experience with Capers’ system is a beneficial. The big negative though? He is too tall and lean to play inside, and he is best suited to be an NFL backup outside linebacker at best.
Jamari Lattimore has tremendous athleticism and can shed blocks relatively well for a young player. With tremendous athleticism though comes a liability, as Lattimore is smaller than the average NFL inside linebacker, and lack the durability to start over the course of an entire season.
Rob Francois has shown flashes of brilliance, has tremendous size (6’2, 255), and is one of the more physical linebackers on the Packers’ roster. Francois, who also adds energy to the Packers’ defense, tends to get lost mentally in defensive coordinator DomCapers’ system, and he can play a bit slow at times.
Lastly, Terrell Manning, who enters his second year, could prove to be the reason why Packers General Manager Ted Thompson felt OK with letting Bishop go. Manning saw very little action as a rookie in 2012, but has comparable size to Bishop, and he could get the first opportunity to start alongside Hawk for the Packers.
Bishop’s leadership will be tough to replace in Green Bay, but when five players are competing for two starting positions, someone has to breakout, right? By golly, Thompson and the Packers can only hope so.
*UPDATE, JUNE 24: Bishop has agreed to a one-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings
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