Reggie Bush Needs To Be The Catalyst In Lions New Offense
In 2013, new Detroit addition Reggie Bush accumulated 1,512 yards from scrimmage, providing the Lions with a true No.1 running back that can also catch balls out of the backfield. Bush was able to team up with Joique Bell to create a completely new dimension to the Lions offense, and was a key contributor to the excellent first half that his new team had. However, Bush’s stats faded in the second half, as did those of the Lions as a whole. That’s not to suggest that Bush’s less-than-average second half was the reason that Detroit went 2-6 down the stretch while ultimately failing to make the playoffs in an easily winnable division, but an ineffective running game made disrupting QB Matthew Stafford easier for opposing defenses.
What was so different in Bush’s stats from Weeks 1-8 to Weeks 10-17?
In the first half of the season, Bush compiled more than 110 total yards in four of the seven games in which he suited up. Although he topped 100 rushing yards just once (Week 4 against the Chicago Bears), Bush caught at least three passes in each game and had at least 25 receiving yards in all seven. Ball security was also not an issue in the first half -- Bush put the ball on the ground just twice, losing his first fumble in Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Compare this to the second half for Bush. In seven games after the Lions Week 9 bye, he totaled 110 yards or more just twice (both of Detroit's wins in the second half), and was held to less than 70 yards on three occasions. Bush also became a non-factor in the receiving game, as he gathered 25 or more yards just twice and was held to under three catches or fewer in four of those games. Bush’s fumble issues also became a source of attention down the stretch -- after losing just one in the first half, he lost all three he put on the turf and failed to go consecutive weeks without losing a fumble after Week 8.
Again, correlation by no means infers causation here, but it certainly didn’t help the Lions cause to have Bush struggling as much as he did. In all six games that Bush accumulated at least 110 total yards, the Lions came away with a win -- their only other win came at Washington with Bush out with an injury-- averaging almost 33 points per game. In the eight that Bush was held under 110 yards (plus Week 14 at Philadelphia, which he also missed due to injury), the Lions lost while averaging less than 19 points in those contests.
Moving forward, the Lions would be wise to look at the trends of 2013 and make the proper adjustments in the upcoming season, especially considering the system that new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is bringing to the team. As I documented months ago, the New Orleans Saints offense that Lombardi has based the Lions offense on requires a capable running back corps that can both run the football and catch out of the backfield. Bush proved that he is capable of doing so in the first half of 2013, and needs to reassert that ability immediately in 2014. Doing so will allow Stafford to exploit opposing defenses needs to watch the Lions running backs on passing plays and get the ball to his deeper threats.
To accomplish this, Bush will obviously have to work on his hands, both in his drop rate and his fumbles. Bush dropped the most passes on the entire team last season, which didn’t help his case when the fumbles began piling up at the end of the year. The new Lions offense will work best if Bush can be a reliable resource out of the backfield, providing the additional dimension to the offense that he did for much of the first half of 2013.
Luckily for the Lions, they have the luxury of depth with Bell having broken out last season. That said, the onus should, and will be, on Bush to perform up to the standards that both he and Detroit's coaches know he is capable of meeting.
If Bush can put together a solid 16-game campaign, limit the drops, cease the fumbles and provide the explosiveness that Darren Sproles provided in the Saints offense, the Lions offense should be tough to contain in 2014.