22

July

Can Bishop, Peprah and Shields Build on Their 2010 Seasons?

Green Pay Packers cornerback Sam Shields

Can the young Sam Shields improve after his impressive rookie campaign?

The Green Bay Packers allowed the second fewest points in the NFL last season mainly because Clay Matthews became one of the best pass rushers in the league, BJ Raji held down the middle of the line, Tramon Williams emerged as a high-end cornerback and players like Charles Woodson, Nick Collins and Cullen Jenkins were their usual outstanding selves.

But to go from good to great, a team needs more than just its most talented and proven players making big plays. It needs under-the-radar guys to step up and not only provide depth, but also chip in with a big play every now and then. The Packers defense got just that last season from Desmond Bishop, Charlie Peprah and Sam Shields.

Can they do it again in 2011?

Desmond Bishop
2010 Expectations: Talented backup, but not quite good enough to start.
2010 Reality: Got his chance to start and proved he is more than capable.
2010 Highlight: Pick-six against Brett Favre in week seven.
Outlook: If there was a defensive player of the year award for the preseason, Bishop would probably have a few of them by now. Every preseason Bishop flies around the field and looks like the second-coming of Ray Lewis. Then the regular season starts and he gets stuck in the linebacker logjam.

Last season that logjam broke up because of injuries and Bishop got his chance. While he probably won’t become the regular season version of Ray Lewis, I expect Bishop to officially establish himself  as a good player instead of a talented wild card.

And the Packers are going to need him. Dom Capers likes to mix and match his personnell packages and Bishop will be needed to hold together many of them.

Charlie Peprah
2010 Expectations: If Peprah is on the field, the Packers are either losing or winning by several touchdowns late in the game.
2010 Reality: Took over after Morgan Burnett went down and played better than a career backup should play.
2010 Highlight: Key interception against the Bears in season finale.
Outlook: Of the three players we are reviewing, Peprah is probably the one most people would select to regress. It wouldn’t surprise me if Peprah goes back to being Peprah, but there are a few reasons why he might continue to surprise:

  • Burnett will push him. Packers coaches like Burnett and will probably give him every opportunity to win his starting job back. Expect Peprah to put up a fight and give coaches a reason to keep him on the field.
  • Peprah doesn’t need to be a star. With Woodson, Williams, Collins and Shields, the Packers have plenty of playmakers in their secondary. Peprah doesn’t need to be spectacular, just follow his assignments and make the plays a decent NFL safety should make.
  • Lack of depth at safety. The Packers are not exactly overflowing with an abundance of talent at the safety position. Even if he loses the starting job to Burnett, Peprah likely will get another crack at some point during the season.

Sam Shields
2010 Expectations: Unknown guy who could run really fast and started as the nickel back by default.
2010 Reality: Occasionally stole the spotlight from his more established teammates in the secondary.
2010 Highlight: Game-clinching interception against the Bears in the NFC Championship.
Outlook: I’ve been trying to talk myself into tempering expectations for Shields, but it’s tough. It’s obvious that he’s super talented and you want to assume that with another season under Capers and alongside Woodson and company, he’ll only get better.

That’s the thing with this Packers team. So many players had impressive seasons in 2010 and most of them were young. Everyone’s hopes are sky high for 2011. People are expecting all of the Packers young talent to automatically get even better.

That very well may end up being the case. But it also might end up being the case that some young and talented players come back down to earth a bit. When training camp starts, we will get a better idea which players will continue their ascent and which may hit a bump in the road.

I’m trying to convince myself that Shields will hit one of those bumps, but I can’t do it. He’s been too impressive thus far.

Final Word
If Bishop, Peprah and Shields take another step in the right direction this season, and if players like Mike Neal and Frank Zombo ascend to surprising young playmaker status, this defense will be a treat to watch. Capers is probably sitting in his car just waiting for the lockout to officially end so he can speed to Green Bay and start scheming.

And the players are probably just as excited.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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36 Responses to “Can Bishop, Peprah and Shields Build on Their 2010 Seasons?”

  1. Chazman says:

    I think that Peprah and Bishop will pick up where they left off, mostly because they’ve experienced multiple off seasons and preseasons and know what its like to ride the bench. Shields I think is hurt most by this lockout because he’s missed a very valuable opportunity to build on what has been an impressive start.
    The good news is that we have a great coaching staff that teaches as well as coaches so hopefully (Super Bowl victory and massive neck tattoos aside) all three will take the next step and solidify their place in the starting lineup.

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  2. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    Adam, great article as usual. I will vary from your take on 2 points:

    1) Shields 2010 expectations were more like “a long term project to convert from WR who might provide added depth.” Pat Lee was going to be the nickle back going in to camp — he did not so much lose that job as shields won it by a spectacular performance in camp. There was no ‘won the job by default’ involved.

    2) If Capers isn’t scheming on his team provided ipad *while* sitting in the car I’ll ear my team logo t-shirt.

    Cannot wait! Re=Peat!

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    • Adam Czech says:

      Good point on Shields. I remember asking myself how a team w/ Super Bowl aspirations can start an undrafted rookie w/ minimal CB experience in the defensive backfield. That’s where my “won the job by default” mindset came from.

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      • Michalske says:

        Its easy to overlook Lee’s coverage skills (the PAck’s problems in 2009 came in large part because he was not there to step in as the nickle after Al Harris went down and tramon got promoted.) Likewise, Bush is actually adequate as the 5th or 6th corner — the problems start when he s on the field defending on 50% of the snaps. Shields is a rare talent both physically (speed) and mentally (learning curve). He may have been the most important addition to last year’s team, if only for the way his presence freed up Woodson to be such a beast on overall defense. Shields will be challenged by the long layoff, but I hope he can keep developing this year.

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  3. Darbles says:

    What blows my mind is that it took so long to get Bishop on the field. I was happy as hell when Barnett went down, I had been sick of him for the last 3 years. Bishop had always shown that he could play, but was never given the opportunity….WHY!!!??? It’s frustrating to me that we had to have a great talent like him get an opportunity because of an injury. Winston Moss is a terrible evaluator of talent….thank God all he has to do is coach MLB’s…nobody can screw that up now with all the guys we have under contract. Bye Bye Barnett…..take your imaginary sword and fang mouthguard to another city. Thanks again for 4th and 19 vs. the Eagles….you should have gotten depth you bum.

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    • FireMMNow says:

      4th and 26.

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    • Oppy says:

      The thing to remember about Desmond Bishop not getting his chance sooner is….

      He did get his chance. Chances, actually.

      More than once he was put in games, and while he’d make a TFL or lay the wood on a guy one play, he’d also completely blow and assignment the next.

      Bishop’s on the field play was directly responsible for his not taking a starting job or getting more playing time earlier in his career.

      All the coaches saw his talent in camp each year. They also saw a talented player blow his real-world opportunities during the season each year.

      Getting beat is one thing, missing a tackle is one thing. The mental errors, however, no DC is going to tolerate because they won’t feel they can rely on you. Luckily, Bishop got it together and played great last season. Good for him.

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      • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

        Right on the mark as usual, Oppy – Bishop was given chances and would always do something dumb to keep the coaches in having full confidence in putting him out there on a regular basis. It all came come together for him this season and he should never look back.

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        • Lucas says:

          Bishop was given chances with previous coaching. The hidden strength of this team is the coaching. I wonder if Nick would have improved had his attitude not kept his ears closed. Bishop, hungry, took to Dom and his coaching staff.

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  4. FireMMNow says:

    Peprah scares me. The reason is he is just limited athletically. He made some big plays, but go lucky not to give up two huge plays in the playoffs. Desean Jackson and Mike Wallace got behind him by 8 yards in the post season. A completion on either of those relatively easy throws could have ended the packers run. I expect Burnett to be starting after the bye week. I like Peprah, I just think Burnett has more tools and just needs the experience.

    Bishop is a good player. He needed a chance and some time where he did not have to look over his shoulder. In years past it seemed like he was the 8th player off the bench in basketball. He felt like he needed to make a play in the 90 seconds of playing time he got and usually pressed too hard and gave up the big play. Behind Woodson he is the most instinctive defender on the team. IMO.

    Shields is just so fast and athletic that it will be hard for him to regress too far. He can make up for a lot of mistakes with that speed. He will make some head scratching plays, but will be a good player for a long time.

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    • Oppy says:

      I could conceivably see Dom Capers using 3 safeties in certain nickle packages to utilize the talent we have there.

      Let’s say the 1-5-5 (assuming we have a DE/DT who can play the role half as well as Jenkins does). Burnett and Collins are your true safeties, and perhaps Capers can cast Peprah as an in-the-box safety in one of the LB’s positions.

      Peprah is physical enough to engage in run support fairly well and has better coverage skills than our LBs..

      There could be interesting uses for Peprah even if Burnett takes over the starting role.. Not to mention, if Dom does get creative with 3 safeties, Burnett could be turned loose on a field (much like his college days) if an assignment sure Peprah is in the back field.

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      • Michalske says:

        We effectively have 3 safeties in the 2-4-5 formation we used so much last season, except of course the ‘safety in the box’ role was taken by Woodson. Peprah is OK at most safety tasks and he is an outsdandingly diosciplined tackler. I am fine with him on the team, though as you say he should be a backup after Burnett fully recovers.

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    • Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

      Peprah doesn’t scare me, but he is shaky in downfield coverage. His biggest contributions last season were delivering some message-sending hits on WRs and running backs. He’s a useful sub. Burnett needs to improve his hitting, but can drink peprah under the table, talent-wise.

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  5. Darbles says:

    Is anybody else amazed at how many people are ripping on Shields for his tattoo?? I think it’s great. I would rather have that tattoo on his neck, showing team pride, than a super man tattoo on the arm or “GODS GIFT” on the triceps. Come on, he’s a young kid that got a tattoo. It’s on his neck….so what?? Time for everyone to just relax. In a way, it’s kind of racist for everyone to be jumping on Sam and ripping on him. Nobody says anything about our terrible Right Guard having his arms all tatted up…..oh…..because it’s on his arms and he’s white??? Come on people.

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    • FireMMNow says:

      i have no problem with the neck tattoo. I would have a problem if he went tramp stamp with the ring, but no issue with the neck tattoo. I just hope Shields earns plenty of money over his career so he does not have to try to get another job. But I agree Darbles, much better than getting his own initials, morphed inside of his area code, inside of the names of his seven illigetimate kids.

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      • Ron LC says:

        Yep – just looking to the future. There’s a big demand in the Carnival Side Show business.

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  6. Darbles says:

    I meant Left Guard…..Colledge….sorry about that…

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    • Adam Czech says:

      If tattoos bother someone, they probably should not be following sports in this day and age.

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  7. Adam Czech says:

    This is probably my all-time favorite tattoo. It’s hard to tell, but it’s a Thanksgiving dinner tattooed on this guy’s belly :)

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  8. Jeff Query (White Lightning) says:

    I agree with FireMMNow…..Bishop has a great feel for the game. I have liked Peprah for a while, and love that they resigned him. He adds great depth and has proven that he can start in the NFL and make plays. He is tough vs. the run, and there isn’t a Safety in the NFL that hasn’t had some plays where guys get behind him. Call it luck….but the guy stood up all year and we made it to the Super Bowl with him. Burnett could have the edge on Peprah, but I don’t think it’s going to be easy.

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    • FireMMNow says:

      Like I said, I like Peprah, but just to excuse the Desean Jackson and Mike Wallace plays as “it happens to everyone” is not good enough for me. I guarantee that if the Big Ben and Vick had made the throws they will make 70% of the time everyone would have a different feeling about Peprah. He is a decent player, but I think the Packers caught lightning in a bottle with him and I see him as the guy that would most likely regress.

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  9. Jeff Query (White Lightning) says:

    Holy crap….it was 4th and 26….that’s almost impossible. Jue, Sharper and Anderson were also a day late on that coverage….but Barnett never got depth. He sat on a little crossing route….ugh……that should have been another trip the Super Bowl that year. How does that happen??

    Me and the Majik Man and Tony Bennett and Bryce Paup would never have allowed that to happen….right boys???

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    • FireMMNow says:

      The key to that statement is two words – Jue and Anderson.

      Those two had no business seeing the field in a playoff game. Horrible players.

      Then you throw in Sharper and Barnett, the two players that I would pick to be selfish and choke a key play away and you have a conversion of 4th and 26.

      The other part that stings is Freddie Mitchell made the catch. That was the only meaningful play that loud mouthed waste of space made in his entire career.

      Put that and Brett Favre throwing the pick in OT to the Giants as my worst packer memories.

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      • jOe says:

        Worst Packer memory, playoff game vs. the Rams. Do I need to say more?

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  10. Rick says:

    It was suppossed to be a cover 2 blitz but Sherman changed the play and the WR split the crease. Barnett was where he was supposed to be…. Sharper however was trying to spy and thinking a pick 6 possibility. Becaus eof this he was late coming over form the safety spot and the WR was tackled at 26 yrds instead of 17. Sherman’s fault for changing the play and Sharper’s for for being out position.

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    • Michalske says:

      Horrible memory but great description. I was way less bothered by Barnett playing the underneath route as the safties horrible position beyond the first down yardage.

      I didn’t previously have the twist about Sharper playign for a pick. There are times when good defense requires players to give up their chance gaining individual statistics to make sure of a stop. Hope Shields and Tramon learn that this year — too many chances taken running back INTs when taking a knee would seal a win.

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  11. BubbaOne says:

    Like AJ Hawk, I put Peprah in the “Steady Eddie” catagory; assignment sure, not flashy, and does the little things to get job done. Al McGuire used call these players a “cement mixer”. In SB XLV Peprah is in the conversation for Defensive MVP after leading the team in tackles.

    Sidebar for Shields: I still would like to see MM have a sub pckg. for Shields at WR. His speed would create even more havoc for opposing D’s than the weapons we already have.

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    • FireMMNow says:

      NOOOO! Just sign Ricardo Lockette as a UDFA and cut swain. Now you have your speed. Let Shields do exactly what he is doing.

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      • Tarynfor 12 says:

        Agree on Lockette but I have to toss the name Lester Jean,Fla Atl in the UDFA signing at WR.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      lol, just put Shields in for Swain and tell him to run in a straight line. Sooner or later the defense will stop bothering with Shields and that when you bomb it to him.

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  12. aaronqb says:

    I think the Packer coaching staff’s expectations for Shields were higher than what you indicate here. Joe Whitt attended Miami’s pro day and came back with a first round grade on Shields. He was impressive as a DB in camp from day 1. And, I also don’t believe he “won the nickle job by default”. He beat out Underwood and Lee, both of whom were being considered for the job. He also was partly responsible for Harris’ release.

    I expect Shields to grow into an elite NFL CB, though the lockout may have delayed it a bit. He has unbelievable closing speed and reminds me on Deion Sanders in that regard. He just needs reps and coaching.

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  13. Ron LC says:

    Easy answer – more time will equal better players. Assuming they don’t suffer from Carnius Expandus.

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