From Barry To Bush, Lions RBs Doomed By Injury
By Allen Jones
While the legendary Barry Sanders’ combination of production and style is impossible to replace, the consequent hangover from his retirement has had Lions’ fans salivating for a consistent running threat since 1999.
The road to re-establish a formidable rushing attack has been a collection of letdowns. The theme connecting their failures is easy to decipher.
In 2000, one year after Barry’s golden handshake, the Lions signed James Stewart. He started all 16 games, rushing for 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns. He suffered a career-ending shoulder injury in 2002.
In 2004, the Lions drafted running back Kevin Jones out of Virginia Tech. Jones started 14 games as a rookie, rushing for 1,133 and averaging nearly five yards a carry. After a litany of foot and knee problems caused a decrease in production over the next four seasons, he was released and hasn’t played football since.
A 2008 third round pick, running back Kevin Smith showed promise and he proved to be an ironman at Central Florida. His rookie year, he started 12 games, rushed for 1,262 yards and added eight touchdowns. Knee injuries sidelined his career and his inspirational comeback effort with the Lions. He is out of football.
Jahvid Best was the heir apparent. Drafted in 2010, Best was the big play threat the Lions needed. He displayed his awesome playmaking ability and excited Lions’ fans until he suffered a career-threatening concussion in 2011. He hasn’t played since.
Detroit has been forced to rely on a committee rushing attack until now.
Insert Reggie Bush, one of the most polarizing players in the league.
The Detroit Lions and Bush are a perfect fit, for they share symbiotic opportunity. He arrives in Detroit coming off his most durable season, starting all 16 games, rushing for 986 yards and six touchdowns on 227 carries. He also added 35 receptions for 292 yards.
Whether Reggie Bush is a 1,000 yard rusher in 2013 is contingent upon many factors, including but not limited to: How offensive coordinator Scott Linehan decides to get him touches, how the Lions bolster their offensive line after the loss of Gosder Cherilus and retirement of Jeff Backus, how much time he splits with 2011 second-round pick, power running back Mikel Leshoure and yes, injuries.
Despite his slightly above-average production, Bush has faced questions regarding his durability and capacity to carry a team. Detroit provides an opportunity for him to answer his pundits and the Lions stand to benefit tremendously if he is what most football aficionados believe him to be.
Health seems to be the motif of the Lions running game since the days of Barry Sanders. If Bush can remain healthy and head coach Jim Schwartz can extract Bush’s uncanny ability to make plays in space and catch the ball, they boast one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL.