Packers Inside Linebackers: Now what? All Green Bay Packers All the Time
Desmond Bishop, Green Bay Packers
Bye Bye Bishop?

While nothing has been officially announced yet, by many accounts Desmond Bishop’s days as a Green Bay Packer appear to be over.

Speculation is rampant as to whether it’s strictly a “numbers” decision or if the Packers don’t believe he’ll ever be the same after a very serious injury. Bishop claims to be 100%, but has not participated in the Packers OTAs or mini camp.

Whatever the real reason, the big question is, now what?

I’ve seen a lot of  fans asking, “are we supposed to be happy with AJ Hawk and Brad Jones as our starting linebackers?”

My answer to that is, you won’t have to be. What you are likely to see is a lot of situational substitutions at the ILB spots. The Packers have a cadre of linebackers with complimentary skills. Dom Capers’ task will be to pick the right player/scheme for the specific situation.

Also remember the experimentation you’re seeing with Mike Neil and Mike Daniels being used in more of a linebacker role. The Packers suddenly find themselves very deep on the defensive line, and I would not be surprised to see some brand new defensive packages with fewer linebackers and more DL & DBs in the game.

We really won’t know until they line up against San Francisco in the first game that really matters, but you can bet they will have some new looks for Colin Kaepernick.

In the meantime, let’s take a quick look at the ILBs on the Packers’ roster:

AJ Hawk:  Always the team player and good soldier, Hawk has lasted this long as  a starter thanks to his firm grasp of the defensive schemes, ability to make the right defensive calls and his own assignment assuredness. There is no argument he has not lived up to expectations as the fifth player taken in the 2006 NFL draft, but the packers have been using him wisely.

As pointed out in this interesting piece over at Acme Packing Company, the Packers started using Hawk differently in 2012. Firstly, he was in on only 67% of the defensive snaps, as compared to over 90% each of the two previous years. Secondly, he was in on a higher percentage of running plays, a lower percentage of pass plays, and a very low percentage of pass rush attempts.  Expect those trends to continue.

Brad Jones: A favorite of the Packers’ coaches because he is like a piece of clay – whatever the coaches ask of him, he is able to do it with enough success to make it worthwhile. He’s never going to be outstanding at any particular thing, but he is very intelligent (studied economics and astrophysics in college), quick and a true 3-down linebacker, all reasons the Packers are willing to hand him the starting job over Desmond Bishop.

Terrell Manning: Before day 3 of the 2012 draft, Manning’s name was whispered in my ear as one of the true “sleepers” in the draft and a guy the Packers would be targeting. Sure enough, Ted Thompson traded a sixth rounder and two seventh rounders to move up in the fifth round and nab Manning. I was also told Manning had a big upside, but would need a year to develop. That also turned out to be true, but for a different reason.

Manning suffered mightily from an intestinal parasite and then a few minor injuries that took him almost the entire season to shake. He finally contributed towards the end of the year on special teams, but never got back to full strength.  He’s a fast, athletic player with natural pass rush skills and ability to stay with tight ends in coverage. He could turn out be the passing situation replacement for Hawk.

Jamari Lattimore: Surprised many by making the Packers’ roster outright in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State. Transitioned from DE in college to OLB with the Packers, who then decided to move both he and Brad Jones to the inside in 2012. Has become a standout on special teams, leading to being voted special teams captain in last year’s playoffs. Hard-hitting and fearless, Lattimore has a good shot at being the #4 ILB on the Packers roster.

Robert Francois: A player that has probably already reached his high point, Francois is a reliable emergency backup and special teams contributor. Every team needs guys like Robert Francois, but he’s not a threat to break into the lineup on his own merits and may be surpassed this year by players with more upside.

Sam Barrington: The Packers took Barrington with their last pick in this year’s draft. He played outside linebacker in South Florida’s 4-3 defense, but much like Terrell Manning, is a likely convert to ILB in the Packers 3-4.



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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for


70 thoughts on “Packers Inside Linebackers: Now what?

  1. The other thing to remember about Hawk is that while he is not as effective as a healthy Bishop, Hawk has been healthy his entire career. Only missed 2 regular season games in 7 years! The other part to that, in my opinion, is that Bishop is not 100% healthy, as he says he is. Hawk and Brad Jones are the next best thing on the roster.

  2. I’m satisfied w/ the ILB’s we have. Jones graded out as one of the best ILB’s last season, and Hawk was top-20, which is perfectly acceptable for a team’s second-best ILB. they’re not stars, but you don’t need everyone on your team to be a star. being solid is fine. they are far from being a hole. last season, OLB opposite matthews was a hole. the DL besides Raji was a hole. ILB was not. sure if we could get 2010 Bishop back, that would be nice, but the Packer coaches and management know 10 times more about his situation and CURRENT health than any fans, so I trust their judgement. I’d also add that Bishop wasn’t that great in 2011. I’m surprised that fans are still clinging to him like a life raft, when they gave up on TWill in short order after his stellar 2010 season.

    1. “I’d also add that Bishop wasn’t that great in 2011.”

      Really? Five sacks, two forced fumbles, five runs stuffed, and 115 tackles isn’t “that great”?

      1. he was pretty good in some areas, but his coverage was abysmal. dropped precipitously from 2010. gotta look at the whole package.

        1. I think Chads point was he was the one ILB that could actually sack the QB, cause a fumble, and stuff a running play at line of scrimmage instead of 8 yards down field is all.

          1. and my point is that his performance in 2011 declined from what it was in 2010. Bishop isn’t the only ILB that can stuff plays. and even if forced fumbles wasn’t one of the most random stats (heck, erik walden got 2 fumble forces and there’s wide receivers that will get 2 forces in a season), I don’t put much stock in something that only happened on 0.2% of his snaps and has a 50% chance of not resulting in a turnover.

        2. I think Manning will be the key to the Packers Inside Linebackers. Ted LOVES his draft picks so to give up 3 is saying something. Confidence is also something Manning isn’t short on. If you remember, he declared himself the best LB in the draft. Personally I love that type of bravado. Now if he can actually back it up and show it on the field…Great read Al, thanks. I agree with you where I think we’ll see a lot of new looks on the Packers this season. I hadn’t heard about Daniels playing at LB but anything to make this defense better and keep Kapernick from kissing his muscles again I’m for!

  3. Bishop isn’t healthy.. if he was he’d be in camp. They are calling his bluff and ‘raising’ and because he’s injured he can’t make that call.

    He’s going to have to fold and TT is going to ‘steal the pot’ (the remainder of his contract).

  4. Hawk is a wuss. Guy can’t do anything well. Calling him solid betrays ignorance of the game or homerism. Only reason he still has a job is to save face for Thompson.

    Here’s my question: Why not give Bishop the pre-season to prove himself?

    There’s more here than meets the eye. Smells like Cullen Jenkins, Scot Wells and Greg Jennings heave-hos i.e., let your best players go because they know their worth and don’t worship at the alter of Ted Thompson. A healthy Bishop is by far the best ILB on this roster. We all know that. Even Thompson has to know it. Very frustrating to have a GM that lets his stud players go while coddling his top picks that have been busts e.g., Hawk, Raji and Finley. Any wonder our defense is soft and our OL can’t block? Take Rodgers and Matthews off this team and we’d never win a game for years. That’s what 9 years of Ted Thompson have brought us to.

    1. Hawk hater school just let out. But I guess you missed the class on reading comprehension. Show me where I called Hawk solid. I merely told you why he has lasted this long despite being such a disappointment. And none of those items have anything to to with tackling, shedding blockers or playing in coverage. Back to class, Archie!

      Oh, and this: “Take Rodgers and Matthews off this team and we’d never win a game for years. That’s what 9 years of Ted Thompson have brought us to.”

      Yeah, that really helps your credibility…

  5. Stop it Al! Your drinking of the Packer Kool-Aid is getting to be too much! Hawk stinks! I don’t care that he’s missed only 2 games. I would like to see him miss the whole season! HE’S NOT GOOD! They give Jones 4 million per, and he’s been nothing but a career backup! Manning? Who knows. Barrington actually makes me laugh! A short ILB with that blazing 4.92 speed. And then you says things about Neal and Daniels playing LB? Why don’t you just say that the Packers don’t have any LB’s that are very good! If you start playing DL at LB, where they have never played, your LB’s stink! But let the spin machine get after it. They have already convinced some on this board that Neal would be great at LB! This defense needs speed! So how will playing big slow LB’s help with that?

    1. Another Hawk hater who needs some reading comprehension assistance. See my note to Archie above. BTW, for the sake of accuracy, Barrington ran a 4.68 at his Pro day.

      1. It was reported 4.92. And when you stick up for Hawk it shows that you don’t know very much about football! Your getting to be just like stroh. Your opinion is just that….an opinion. And most people think Hawk is worthless. Speaking about reading comprehension, you read my whole post and you pick out the time of a scrub, late round LB? The two glaring weaknesses of this team are O-Line and LB. So what does TT do? He mixes up the o-line and does nothing for the LB! But write all about how this will be so much better! The problem with this is you believe it!

        1. Scott, all you’re showing is that your Hawk hate is interfering with your brain functions. I did not even give my opinion of Hawk, merely listed why he has lasted on this team.

          As I said to Archie, “Show me where I called Hawk solid. I merely told you why he has lasted this long despite being such a disappointment. And none of those items have anything to to with tackling, shedding blockers or playing in coverage.”

          I offered no personal opinion on Hawk in this post. If you can’t see that, oh well…

          1. You may not have said anything about Hawk and if you think he’s good or not, but by saying that the “Packers have been using him wisely” tends to make people think you like him! So why don’t you tell all of us what you think of Hawk?

            1. I would argue that phrase indicates the exact opposite, meaning they’re using him only in situations where he won’t hurt them as much. So again, I think you’re interpreting my words the way you want to.

              1. Apparently you just respond to what you want. My original post, you talk about Hawk and ignore the rest. Can’t you just answer the question? It really can’t be that hard. If you like him, why? If you don’t, why not?

              2. Hey Scott… How about you admit you interpreted something outside of the writer’s intent and drop it?

              3. Scott, if you knew how to have a conversation on here without being a dick, I would humor you and answer your question. As it stands, I won’t.

        2. Where did anyone stick up for Hawk?! Not like calling him adequate is sticking up. Thatd about what he is. The fact he hasn’t lived up to draft status is causing YOU issues. Everyone else seems to have accepted that fact!

        3. Calling people a dick because they dared to ask you a question that you apparently don’t want to answer? And my statement still stands. You pick out one thing out of the whole post, then you start with name calling? Comprehension assistance? Dick? I know this is your site, but try to have at least a little class. It would surprise everybody here!

          1. I’ve never seen Al be anything but class.

            In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever seen him call someone any sort of name at all- I guess that’s something.

            1. That’s very accurate Oppy. First time I ever went after a reader in that way. I try to be uber-respectful, but if I don’t get it back, the gloves have to come off.

          2. There are many ways to ask a question. You were confrontational and acted like a dick. Read the other comments, I’m not the only one who thinks so. Better yet, read back your original comment (which has gotten a quite a few thumbs down from other readers). If you think you addressed your question in a respectful way, then there’s little else I can say to you. So I won’t try.

            1. You sir are a coward! All I said was “So why don’t you tell us what you think of Hawk?”. You won’t answer the question because if you say he’s OK then people on hear will tear you a new one, and if you say he’s not OK then your Packer connections will take offense! I didn’t start out confrontational, but I am now! You can keep your little site, and your 10’s of fans! You are a little man, who thinks they are king of the castle. You’re not. You are a close minded, little man! Actually you’re just like stroh!

              1. I was wrong, you’re not a dick. You’re a pathetic, delusional, self-aggrandizing uber-douche.

                And.. You’re out of here! FIRST asshole I’ve ever banned. Congratulations and… Cya!

  6. What’s with all the ferocity and bitterness? Some of you need to calm the **** down.

      1. Maybe they can also tell me how to keep the rabbits from eating my Asiatic lilies.

    1. I agree. Why is everyone so angry? Come out from under your rock occasionally and get some vitamin D. It will do wonders for your mood. GoPack!

  7. I’ve never bashed Hawk or even publicly commented on his performance level before, but I’ve got to admit that I don’t see all that much special to his game. I’d grade him at about a C+, maybe a B- at best, over his whole career. He’s had a lot of flashes of playmaking ability, but I don’t see him rated much more than above average, and his stats prove it. AJ had to take a paycut just to keep himself in Green Bay, and make no mistake; that’s because of the quality of his play. He’s a capable player with good character. I’m not a Hawk-hater or anything like that. However, there is something that I don’t quite understand… I’ve oftentimes read that AJ has the ability to make the right defensive calls and such. Refer to the above quote:

    “Hawk has lasted this long as a starter thanks to his firm grasp of the defensive schemes, ability to make the right defensive calls and his own assignment assuredness.”

    Yet, if Hawk is making all the right defensive calls; then why has our defense been so subpar over the last couple of years? It doesn’t seem like we’ve been able to readjust to a lot of opponents running roughshod all over our defense. Trust me; I’m not completely blaming Hawk for this level of poor performance. Plenty of players are just as culpable. There’s a lot of blame to go around. In my opinion, win as a team; lose as a team. But if Hawk has the ability to make the right defensive calls; then why is the entire Green Bay Packer organization, particularly Dom Capers, trying to reconfigure this entire defense? Players are playing new positions. We’re going to colleges to study the read-option. Our drafts have consistently reflected defensive needs. I think that just about every Packers fan agrees that our “defensive schemes” and “defensive calls” and “assignments” need some serious retooling…

  8. Hey, Jersey Al, it was reported that 36 year-old Takeo Spikes once ran a 4.58 40 yard dash. That’s faster than that wasted draft pick Barrington. Plus, he’s got no neck. Maybe that bean-counter, TT, can sign him for a year at a million less than Bishop. That would solve the problem at ILB, wouldn’t it?

    1. . . . just like TT signing Jeff Saturday last year solved the problem at center.

      1. It maybe too late! The Rams may have beaten TT to Spikes. Too bad, the guy truly has no neck. That would be one less body part that the injury-plagued Pack would have to worry about.

  9. The decision with Bishop is an economic decision plain and simple. With the type of injury he sustained he will not be back to100% again. This is unfortunate since I agree with most other comments here that he was our best ILB. This process is about putting the best 11 players on the field for every down and situation. It looks like the Packers are preparing to rotate their LB’s in and out based on down and distance. But they are also considering that the game is changing and running plays are trending down throughout the league, therefore we need ILB ‘s who can play in space and cover more ground when we rush our OLB’s. Then in short yardage we bring in a guy like Neal to bolster the front seven and help stop the run. I don’t know if this is where the Packers are going but let’s not be all upset with for creating the dialogue in June. I am not a big AJ Hawk fan either but he brings continuity and experience to the play calling role. If you let him and Bishop who fills that gap. It would be great if this team could healthy for a season so that we could actually see what we have over the course of 16 games. Thanks, Since ’61

  10. Healthy Hawk is better than injured Bishop. It’s really that simple. Not sure why all the angst. There is a reason Bishop is not contributing right now, because he is not 100%. If he was, he would be participating. Why is that so hard to figure out. GoPack!

  11. Greg, you just keep singing the same old song, complaining about draft picks before you ever even see them on the field. Bring me something different…

    1. Don’t worry. Say Thompson signs an old used up ILB that isn’t very good anymore. What do you think he would do then? He would complain about Thompson signing an old used up, not very good ILB!

    2. Really? Advocating, facetiously of course, that TT sign “no neck,” 36 year-old Takeo Spikes to solve the problem at ILB is more of a complaint about TT letting a Super Bowl championship team deteriorate than it is about a particular draft pick. I truly believe that this season is the best chance we will have of getting back to the Super Bowl for years to come, possibly for the remainder of AR’s career. And, we are only one injury (to AR) away from being a very mediocre team. So, who, if not TT, is responsible for the current state of the team?

      1. What’s the current state of the team?

        We don’t know, they haven’t played a snap or even put on the pads for practice yet.

        You’ve already dismissed the possibility that there actually might not be a problem at ILB. We have guys like Manning who we’ve yet to see. Jones did a pretty darn good job last year. And, then there’s the draft pick you’ve written off. Hey, he might be lousy. But we just don’t know.

        I’m not expecting the loss of Bishop to be easy. But then, I’m not going to state ILB is problem quite yet, either.

        Gotta wait for the pudding to be served before any of us will find any proof.

      2. “The current state of the team.” So before a down is played, you know what this team is or will be? You’re mostly mad because Thompson didn’t draft “your guys.” Extrapolating that to hint the Packers are in trouble is ridiculous. C’mon Greg, I expect better…

        1. Actually, I am not “mad” at TT because he didn’t draft “my guys,” as you put it. I have given him credit in other posts for drafting Datone Jones, trading up to get a wonderful pick in Johnathan Franklin, and in making trades to acquire 11 draft picks. I’m not “mad” at him; I’m disappointed in him for failing to get an adequate supporting cast for one of the greatest QBs of all time. I have tried using humor, perhaps unsuccessfully (e.g., my reference to Takeo Spikes), in pointing this out. Are there other signs that the Packers are in trouble? Yes, quite clearly. I won’t go into all of them, but the recurring yearly instability of the OL is one. TT usually does not cure a problem through free agency (as he tried to do last year with the Jeff Saturday experiment); he builds through the draft. At the end of the year, when all the games have been played, you and your readers can judge how effective he has been and, if he hasn’t been, who should replace him.

          Now, as far as “expecting better,” Al, I hope that you will have “zero tolerance” in the future for anyone, including yourself, who insults another commentator or who name-calls like a child or who uses profanity. I have never seen this before on another website. I’ll “expect better” . . .

          1. Greg, every team has weak spots. Picking out the Packers’ and blaming Ted for not having EVERYTHING fixed is kind of silly. Every GM in the NFL faces the same issues. Ted is easily in the top 10, probably top 5.

            As for name calling, it took four years and four months for some jerk to take things to a level to where I felt I had to fight fire with fire. I normally just blow it off, but when someone starts attacking other commenters and writers on top of me, well, Scott had it coming and I don’t regret it for a second.

            Your “I’ve never seen this before on another website” comment I’ll take as a compliment that you don’t visit many competitive sites, because this type of stuff is RAMPANT elsewhere. I’ve always been proud of having one of the most respected comment sections – when someone threatens that reputation, action needs to be taken.

            1. Although it would be nice to sign a free agent every once in a while, it’s not going to happen on Teds watch. I’ve been critical at times of Ted but the man can manage a cap. He’ll do what’s best for the Packers IN THE LONG RUN. He’ll never put all his eggs in a basket for just one year, sign a bunch of FA, and be in cap hell for 3 years after. I also don’t ever believe a team is just one player away, unless you have a QB that really blows. The Packers don’t have that problem. When the 49ers and Seahawks have to start paying Kapernick, Wilson, and all those All Pros on the defensive side of the ball, it will be interesting to see how they work that. I want to see where the Broncos are in two years with all these contracts they’ve been giving out. With a little luck the Packers can stay healthy this year. I’m very excited about this team and the funny this is, nobody is talking about them. If this team can stay healthy, they can play with anyone.

          2. Personally I thought it was pretty funny, the no neck comment. I saw the humor Greg. This Bishop thing is making people crazy!

      3. MOST NFL teams would suck if their starting QB goes down. We can sit here and “what if” all night about the things that could happen. You COULD get hit by a bus tomorrow. True story. Now what? Maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you, but you’re riding Scott1956’s coat tails and if you need some help: that’s not a good thing.

        The Super Bowl team is 3 years old-ER. It’s not wise to keep hanging on to players just because they were on the roster when the team won its last ring. Eventually, they need to be replaced. Teams don’t repeat anymore. There’s a few years between championships. So, we’re in that phase right now.

  12. Christ, CHTV… This place… Being overrun by Dick bags. What a shame.

    Al, Daniels has been seeing time at lb? Really!?!?

    1. only a few, Fitz – that’s a reflection of our “anonymous internet society” more than anything. As for Daniels, one of the beat writers reported seeing him take some snaps at OLB at an OTA practice. I just can’t remember who it was…

    2. Fitz, that’s why I have all but vacated CHTV. I hate to say it, but my patience has grown so thin with the “dick bags” that I think I’m slowly turning into one.

      Gotta step back for a while.

      1. This is actually true, Op. .these sites take on a personality of their own and you can find yourself buying into the garbage. Al’s point about anonymity on the internet is also very true. Technology is the best and worst thing, in many ways.

  13. Many of the comments to this fine article illustrate why the overwhelming majority of fans could never even begin to make it as general managers. It also illustrates why their opinions aren’t worth the time it takes to read them.

    In Hawk’s case, a large number of people can’t see past the simple (and irrelevant) fact that Hawk was the 5th overall pick, and therefore has been a disappointment. And from this fact they conclude that AJ Hawk is Lucifer, and the sole reason why the Packers have failed to win the last eight consecutive Superbowls since Hawk was selected in the draft. If anyone (such as the author of this article) says anything at all that might somehow be vaguely construed as complimentary to Hawk, then that person must be a KoolAid-drinking, TT-loving homer who is too stupid to recognized the horribly evil travesty that is AJ Hawk.

    Please. Who’s the homer? And who’s drinking the Kool Aid?

    Pro Football Focus rated Hawk #25 out of 52 inside linebackers in 2012. Sure, that’s not great, but Lucifer was actually quite a bit closer to the bottom of the list than Hawk was. I’m not saying that PFF is always right, but does anybody really think that PFF is just a bunch of KoolAid-drinking, TT-loving homers?

    Get a clue, people. You know who you are.



    Took four years and four months for me to go that far on someone. Took Scott only 45 days of commenting on here to be jettisoned from this site back to wherever he came from.

    Good riddance, Scott1956

  15. Well, hasn’t it been interesting on the site today, Al, you just keep up the good work ( this is THE site for a Packer fan ) As for the subject of ILB i would be willing to bet that injury that Bishop had was much more than season ending, I think we may be surprised this year at the way they rework the defense

  16. Ya’ know, I read the majority of the articles on this site and most of the responses to them as well and I just have to say that even though this is about the most heated argument I’ve seen on this site – that’s what makes this the best stop for Packers related reading. I don’t want to read a bunch of egomaniacs all cursing at each other over football, though we all can get opinionated it amazes me how civil this site how managed to stay throughout its existence. Al I give you some pretty massive credit for that because it’s a direct reflection on how you run your site – so for everybody here, thanks.

  17. Basically going through the article we like the above because its correct and its great spotting a web guy thats showing it on the net to read!

  18. Speaking of reviewing the OPs post plenty will believe this as it’s what we really feel so it is nifty reading from an op thats blogging it online to consider.

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