MINNEAPOLIS — Desmond Bishop in in his seventh season in the NFL and is approaching the preseason as an audition for the Minnesota Vikings.
His audition in Thursday’s preseason finale could have him opening the show when the regular season begins on Sept. 8.
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Bishop, competing for a roster spot and a possible starting job, had a team-leading eight tackles in Minnesota’s 24-23 home win Thursday. Bishop had six tackles on the opening series, including two for loss.
“I think it was important,” Bishop said of his game Thursday. “I think the coaches still want to see me a little bit and see what I can do against a different team and a different scheme. I think it was very important.”
Bishop, after six seasons with the Green Bay Packers, is trying to impress his new team. He knows how quickly life in the NFL can change after being released earlier this summer by Green Bay and is trying to solidify his spot on the Vikings.
Bishop led the team with 21 preseason tackles and had a half-sack.
“It’s a process; the whole thing, the transformation, the new defense, kind of getting back, getting my feet under me still,” Bishop said. “It’s all been a process and I’ve kind of been steadily getting better each game.”
Bishop’s tenure with Minnesota started slow. He was signed following the offseason program, so his first chance to practice with his new team was at the start of training camp. Then Bishop was felled by a groin injury and missed the first preseason game.
As he’s gotten healthy, he’s started to show why he was the Packers’ leading tackler in 2011 and a key defensive starter when Green Bay won the Super Bowl in 2010. But Bishop missed all last season because of a torn hamstring and the Packers decided to move on without Bishop.
Bishop signed with the Vikings and has been showing his instincts in his preseason game auditions. Last week against San Francisco, Bishop was given the chance to play with the first-team defense and had a strong effort.
With the entire starting defense out of pads for Thursday’s game, Bishop started and played two series. Being so active, it was probably all the time he needed to prove to his coaches he’s ready.
“He was flying around,” coach Leslie Frazier said. “It was good to see him get out there. He’s struggled with injuries over the last year or so. So to see him come out and compete the way he did and put some good tape out there the last two weeks. He was kind of getting his feet wet in that Buffalo game (the second preseason game), but the last couple of weeks he’s really come on. So that’s really encouraging. Looking forward to watching the tape and really evaluating more. He did a good job.”
Bishop looked forward to his game auditions, being able to use the instincts that has helped him carve out a six-year career as an original sixth-round draft pick.
“Absolutely,” Bishop said when asked if he feels his ability comes out more in games. “I’m kind of an instinctive guy. That’s kind of my strength. So, I practice as preparation for the game. It’s about doing it in the game though.”
Marvin Mitchell, with the advantage of being with Minnesota for a year, has been starting at weakside linebacker all training camp and preseason. When Jasper Brinkley signed with the Arizona Cardinals in the offseason, Erin Henderson moved inside, leaving an open spot on the weakside. Mitchell has had the inside track, but Bishop is gaining ground.
“He did some good things in practice as well,” Frazier said. “I don’t want to say he’s a gamer because he’s practiced well and it’s good to see him carry that over to game situations. We’ve got to have some strong discussions regarding him tomorrow.”
Now, with the 53-man active roster being established Sunday and the regular season around the corner, Bishop waits to see what the Vikings do at linebacker. He doesn’t worry about the next few days though.
“The waiting game? Naw,” Bishop said. “Nope, because really, that’s something I don’t have control over. All I can do is control how I show up on the field, and once I’m off the field, I’m going to let the chips fall where they may. I have no regrets.”
After seeing him play Thursday, Minnesota shouldn’t either.