Packers’ defense better hope Bishop’s position is handled

Desmond Bishop Flash Sale!

Brad Jones is next inside linebacker up; could Nick Barnett make GB return?
Desmond Bishop is out. Brad Jones is in.
Two questions come to mind. First, do the Packers and defensive coordinator Dom Capers have the right guy to replace Bishop in Jones? Second, have the Packers completed their depth chart at inside linebacker? Or is it possible ex-Packers’ linebacker Nick Barnett, currently a free agent and recently seen in Green Bay, be in the mix?
News of Bishop’s release came via a source quoted in on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s website. Bishop, who missed last season with a nasty hamstring injury, was set to earn $3.464 million this season. A source indicated last week, according to the story, that the Packers were going to trade, restructure or release Bishop.
According to JSOnline, Bishop said in May that he was “100 percent healed.” Said Bishop: “My injury side is perfect … it’s 100%. But I have little nicks and knacks here just from being out and trying to get back in. So we’ll see how I feel, but I don’t really want to rush it. There’s no point in rushing it right now.” Now, Bishop will complete his recovery in another NFL uniform.
Jones, who received an offseason contract extension, is expected to fill Bishop’s cleats. That won’t be easy. Bishop racked up 218 tackles, eight sacks and four forced fumbles as a starter in 2010 and 2011. Jones started the Packers’ final 10 regular-season games last year after D.J. Smith went down with an Achille’s injury in Week 6. He had a team-high 13 tackles at Chicago, and made 11 solo tackles in the Packers’ 45-31 playoff loss at San Francisco. Jones played his way into a contract extension, but is he going to bring an edge to a defense sorely in need of one? For all Bishop’s production it was his tenacity that made him valuable. Bishop didn’t merely fill a hole. He delivered a blow that would wear down backs.
Bishop also had a knack for blitzing, especially on cross-blitzes and stunts. Jones hasn’t shown the same level of success in rushing the passer. Jones joins holdover veteran A.J. Hawk, who like Bishop also restructured his contract. Are Jones and Hawk strong enough to hold up at inside linebacker? Is there room for a veteran to possibly earn a roster spot and contribute?
One possibility may be Barnett, 32, who most recently played for the Buffalo Bills and is a free agent. Barnett, a former No. 1 pick of the Packers, has ties to Green Bay and occasionally visits.Barnett’s overall speed and lateral movement remain his strongest attributes and could play into the Packers’ defensive future. Barnett played in 16 games at Buffalo last season. He racked up 112 tackles, two sacks and three forced fumbles for the Bills. He also is familiar with the 3-4 and his leadership could be an asset on a defense that was torched last year.
Jones, who made 102 tackles in 2012, also chipped in with six passes defended and two sacks. The Packers liked him enough to extend his contract, likely with the idea in mind of replacing Bishop.
It would be interesting to see Barnett back in a Packers’ uniform. The competition between Barnett and Hawk, for example, would qualify as a “must watch” training camp battle. While the defense continues to find its way, this much is true: The Packers are counting on Jones to replace Bishop in a big way. They have a lot riding on the decision to release Bishop, and to restructure Hawk.
The pressure is on the Packers’ defense. The spotlight is on Jones.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio ( Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.