Packers Annual Checkup: ILB Desmond Bishop

Today is the third day of FOX Sports Wisconsin Packers writer Paul Imig’s offseason evaluations of every player on Green Bay’s roster. Come back every day between now and mid-March for his in-depth film and statistical analysis and check out the upcoming schedule below:

Monday, Jan. 28 OT Don Barclay
Tuesday, Jan. 29 RB Cedric Benson
Today:
ILB Desmond Bishop
Thursday, Jan. 31: WR Jarrett Boykin
Friday, Feb. 1: OT Bryan Bulaga
Saturday, Feb. 2: S Morgan Burnett
Sunday, Feb. 3: CB Jarrett Bush
Monday, Feb. 4: WR Randall Cobb
Tuesday, Feb. 5: TE Tom Crabtree

DESMOND BISHOP, INSIDE LINEBACKER

Season stats:
0 starts (Season-ending injury in preseason)

Best game: n/a

Worst game: n/a

ProFootballFocus.com season rating: n/a

Expectations at the start of the season: High

Expectations were … Incomplete

Looking live: In 2011, Bishop was the Packers’ second-best defensive player, leading the team in tackles (115), finishing second in sacks (5.0) and tied for first in tackles for loss (five). And that all happened in 13 games, with Bishop missing three games late in the season with a calf injury. He had an all-around very good 2011 season and was on the verge of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber player. Then, just as the 2012 preseason began, Bishop tore his right hamstring, had surgery and was placed on injured reserve. Though Bishop often seems undervalued and underappreciated, the impact on the field was clearly going to be felt. He’s an impact player who is disruptive to opposing offenses. Green Bay’s defense had to overcome a significant loss with Bishop sidelined.

Upon further review: So many aspects of the Packers’ defense improved this season from a year earlier. Had Bishop been healthy and available, the improvements would have been even more drastic. The first player to step in and replace Bishop was D.J. Smith. After a strong rookie season, Smith didn’t perform nearly as well this year starting in Bishop’s spot. Then, after six games, Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury. That brought in third-stringer Brad Jones, a linebacker recently converted from outside to inside in an effort to get him away from having to go up against bigger offensive tackles. Jones then turned in one of the most surprisingly positive performances of any Packer this season in his 10 starts. None of that, though, minimizes just how much better Green Bay’s defense would have been this year had Bishop been able to play.

Overall 2012 grade: Incomplete

Status for 2013: 100 percent chance of being one of the Packers’ starting inside linebackers. Bishop suffered his injury in early August, so he has already had nearly six months of recovery time. Unlike defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, who suffered a knee injury very late in the season, Bishop will be fully recovered soon and get to spend his entire offseason training and working out, as opposed to going through rehabilitation. Bishop’s return in 2013 will be a significant boost to Green Bay’s overall defense. If he stays healthy and can repeat the type of production he had in 2011, Bishop could be in next season’s Pro Bowl.