For the last two seasons, the Detroit Lions backfield has been a carousel of backs as ineffectiveness and injuries took their toll. While Joique Bell finally added a little burst to the backfield last season, Mikel Leshoure continues to disappoint. At the start of free agency, Detroit set out to fix their backfield problem with the addition of free agent back Reggie Bush. The Lions inked a deal with Bush for four years worth a reported $16 million with $4 million guaranteed in March.
Detroit has not had a 1,000 yard back since the 2004 season when rookie Kevin Jones rushed for 1,133 yards. The Lions could use a solid running game to take a little pressure off of QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford’s arm could soon fall off if he continues his torrid passing attack. In the past two seasons, Stafford has attempted 663 and 727 pass attempts respectively.
Detroit thought that they might have solved their running game woes a few seasons ago with the selection of Jahvid Best. Best’s career was cut short after suffering yet another concussion while playing against the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. Best was unable to pass concussion tests and languished on the Lions roster before finally being cut earlier this summer.
While Bush might not be the running back which will finally yield a 1,000 yard season for the Lions, but he will have a beneficial impact on the Detroit offense. Bush finally cracked the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his eight year career in 2011 while a member of the Miami Dolphins. Last year, he fell just short of the milestone but recorded a career high 227 carries.
As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes, Bush’s impact will be felt in a variety of ways. Birkett recounts the Lions game Friday night against the Jets. Bush shifted out of the backfield into the slot and left cornerback Antonio Cromartie with a quandary. Cromartie bit on Bush and the play resulted in a 28-yard pass play to Calvin Johnson.
After the play, QB Matthew Stafford told Bush, “Nobody ever drops Calvin for anybody.”
Johnson has already illustrated that he can catch anything thrown his way, even in triple coverage, the addition of a pass catching Bush out of the backfield can help to make up for the deficiency at the second receiver position. Nate Burleson is entering his 11th season. Second year WR Ryan Broyles is expected to unseat Burleson but the prolific college receiver is coming off back-to-back ACL injuries. Johnson set the single season receiving yardage record last year, just missing out on 2,000 total yards but recorded just five touchdowns.
In his career, Bush has demonstrated prolific pass catching skills. He has never had less than 34 receptions in any season and snagged 88 in his rookie year. Getting him in space does create mismatches for the defense.
Bush will be a good pick in PPR leagues this season. I could envision 800 yards rushing along with 500 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns.
Head coach Jim Schwartz is on one of the hottest coaching seats in the NFL after a very disappointing 2011 campaign. He is hoping the addition of Reggie Bush has the desired impact on the offense.