EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- When the Vikings signed Desmond Bishop to a one-year deal in June, many assumed he'd be starting at linebacker in their regular-season opener on Sept. 8 -- if not at middle linebacker, certainly at the weakside spot that Erin Henderson had left open when he moved to the middle.
Fast-forward two months, and Bishop has plenty of work to do simply to win a spot on the roster.
He missed the team's first preseason game with a groin injury that also kept him out of several training camp practices, and though he recorded a half-sack in the game against Buffalo on Friday night, lighting into a blocking back before helping Andrew Sendejo take down EJ Manuel, Bishop also looked out of sync at times, playing largely in the nickel defense against Buffalo's hurry-up offense. Afterward, he pronounced himself "a little rusty."
The Vikings' plan for him on Sunday, then, could be construed as Bishop's best shot to show what he's only offered in spurts so far. He will play much of the first half with the Vikings' starting defense against the San Francisco 49ers, lining up at weakside linebacker next to Henderson. It remains to be seen whether Bishop will see many nickel snaps with the first-team defense, but two quarters against the 49ers' dynamic offense could be his chance to separate himself from a crowded pack of linebackers on the Vikings' roster.
"I want to be a lot more efficient," Bishop said. "I think with better efficiency comes more plays, and I think that would give me a little bit of comfort. I'm looking forward to it."
If he's healthy, and playing at the level he was at in Green Bay, Bishop could offer the Vikings' defense something it's been lacking: a nasty, physical linebacker who can create turnovers. He forced seven fumbles from 2008-11, or as many as Chad Greenway, the Vikings' Pro Bowl strongside linebacker, has forced in his entire career. In 2010 and 2011, Pro Football Focus ranked Bishop the fifth- and seventh-best pass-rushing inside linebacker in the game, as he totaled a combined eight sacks from the middle of the Packers' 3-4 defense.
The Vikings' plan for Bishop on Sunday night seems like a perfect chance for the linebacker to assert himself against an offense that figures to stretch him. Bishop, a San Francisco native who has a tatoo of the Golden Gate Bridge overlayed on a map of California on his right bicep, will have family and friends at the game on Sunday night, and he'll have plenty of time to show them -- and the Vikings -- what he can do.
"We want to be able to get a good view of him," coach Leslie Frazier said. "In Desmond's case, it's specifically designed to see him against their best players."
Said Bishop: "I feel like I have a lot to prove."