Bishop still inconsistent

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Vexing and perplexing.

These are two words to describe quarterback Michael Bishop -- intellectually and athletically.

He has been blessed with incredible physical talents that are gradually coming together with some degree of consistency.

And it is becoming increasingly apparent why, almost a year to the date, the Argos decided to trade Marcus Brady to Hamilton and retain Bishop as the team's backup quarterback to Damon Allen.

In fact, it's also apparent that all the individuals who were involved in the decision -- and not just offensive co-ordinator Kent Austin -- were right and the so-called experts -- myself included -- judged the deal too quickly.

Beyond just the fact the Argos needed a full-time starting Canadian offensive lineman, they also deemed Bishop had a greater upside than Brady, who hasn't been able to topple Danny McManus from his perch as Hamilton's starter.

SHOWS IT ALL

Bishop's output in the Argos' 34-31 victory over Hamilton to close out the pre-season Friday night provided the full panorama of everything that is brilliant and baffling about Bishop. He throws an interception on his first pass, draws a penalty on his next pass for throwing past the line of scrimmage and later tosses another interception.

But he also engineers the winning touchdown, showing poise in the face of a blitz. If critics are going to blame Bishop for his earlier mistakes, he is to be lauded for how he finished.

When it comes to watching Bishop, there is almost a tendency to anticipate a mistake, either before or after a great play; that the one thing he lacks in his arsenal is consistency and that if he ever discovers it he could be a great quarterback.

In eight games as a starter last year, and some brief play in the Grey Cup, Bishop showed significant signs of progress and maturity, much more developed than his rookie season in 2002. Bishop possesses one of the strongest arms in pro football, fully capable of launching a ball the length of a field or close to it. But he's developed a delicate touch pass, realizing he doesn't always have to throw heaters.

His running, sometimes born out of desperation, now appears to be more designed, in particular roll-outs that allow him to maximize his physical talents. After Bishop's first practice this year, Austin noted the quarterback appeared to be in better physical shape following his stint in the Arena League. That aspect certainly evidenced itself in Friday's game, in which Bishop played after only five days of practices spread over two weeks.

The fact Austin has worked with Bishop for a year has enabled him to understand what works for the player, and it's obvious the roll-out will become a primary requisite, allowing him various options, including running in open field if the initial or secondary read is not there.

As long as Bishop learns to protect the ball, he can be deadly on the run. It certainly worked in the Arena League, but on the bigger, wider CFL field it can be even more valuable.

Watching Bishop run is like watching Allen or Tracy Ham in their heyday. He is that athletic and mobile, but he also has greater arm strength. The only thing missing -- and it's significant -- is the consistency.

While Bishop has a multi-year offer from Grand Rapids of the Arena League, where he enjoyed success this past season, a source close to him said he enjoys Toronto and would like to stay here. As long as he is the backup to Allen and making about a third to half as much money, he won't be happy. But Allen is at the tail-end of his career and Bishop just might be emerging into the prime of his career, capable of becoming a full-time starter, perhaps as early as next year.

There are signs, albeit incremental, Michael Bishop just might be ready to put it all together.


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