"I want the rushing title," Bush recently announced on WSVN-TV, via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "This offseason, I've been working toward that goal. Just being effective like I was this past season. ... Every time I rush the ball, I want four yards. I'm keeping my focus simple and small but at the same time helping my team progress."
And not too many people are shocked—or checking their ears for strange, sound-altering wax—to hear this. Finally, a featured (and reliable) back in the NFL, Bush is showcasing the talent that landed him in New Orleans with the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2006.
The swag is back.
He's running with confidence, hitting the holes hard, bouncing outside for big gains and grinding out yards between the tackles. It's Reggie Bush a la USC—the pre-Kardashian version—and with neither a clear starter at quarterback nor a No. 1 wideout, the Dolphins are expected to frequently rely on their ground game in 2012.
So, can the former Trojan get the necessary reps—Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller trail him on the depth chart, but both have high ceilings—and stay healthy enough to actually contend for a rushing title?
Let's take a closer look at the regular season schedule to examine his chances.
Week 1: at Houston Texans
Projected stats: 15 carries for 52 yards; three receptions for 23 yards.
More of a belly-flop than cannonball start. The Texans defense—which surrendered just 96.0 rushing yards per game in 2011—return 10 of 11 starters and stymie Bush in the season opener.
Week 2: Oakland Raiders
Projected stats: 19 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown; two receptions for 22 yards.
A generous Raiders defense is a welcome sight for Bush, who rebounds with a solid performance.
Week 3: New York Jets
Projected stats: 18 carries for 84 yards; one reception for 16 yards and one touchdown.
The best way to attack the Jets defense is on the ground, and with speed. The three-headed monster (Bush-Thomas-Miller) has plenty of that.
Week 4: at Arizona Cardinals
Projected stats: 20 carries for 96 yards and one touchdown; four receptions for 18 yards.
The battle between Bush and linebacker Daryl Washington should be fun to watch. The Cardinals get the win, but Bush's quest continues.
Week 5: at Cincinnati Bengals
Projected stats: 12 carries for 71 yards; three receptions for 38 yards.
The Dolphins employ a balanced attack, and Bush still finds a way to gain significant yardage despite only a handful of carries.
Week 6: St. Louis Rams
Projected stats: 16 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns; four receptions for 27 yards.
Knowing the bye week is near, Bush runs extra hard and finds the end zone twice in one game for the first time this season.
Week 7: Bye
Bush replaces running with resting as he prepares for the homestretch.
Week 8: at New York Jets
Projected stats: 14 carries for 77 yards and one touchdown; three receptions for 19 yards.
Again, the Dolphins are successful running the ball against this defense. The Jets stack the box, but it's not enough to slow down Bush and Co.
Week 9: at Indianapolis Colts
Projected stats: 22 carries for 123 yards; one reception for seven yards.
The Colts struggled last season—allowing 143.9 yards rushing per game—and won't be much better in 2012. Bush gets the red carpet treatment and breaks the century mark in the process.
Week 10: Tennessee Titans
Projected stats: 11 carries for 36 yards; five receptions for 40 yards.
My gut is telling me that Bush and Chris Johnson—who share similar goals—will boast similar stats at this point in the season. It's also telling me that Johnson will win the head-to-head matchup.
Week 11: at Buffalo Bills
Projected stats: 19 carries for 92 yards and one touchdown; two receptions for 20 yards.
Bush ran for 203 yards in his last trip to Buffalo, but recently acquired Mario Williams is making the big bucks to make sure that doesn't happen again. A productive game for the running back, nonetheless.
Week 12: Seattle Seahawks
Projected stats: 15 carries for 45 yards; three receptions for 12 yards.
I've been loud—as loud as one man can type—in identifying the Seahawks as a team on the rise, especially their defense. They're well-coached, really fly to the ball and stop Bush in his tracks.
Week 13: New England Patriots
Projected stats: 13 carries for 56 yards; six receptions for 46 yards and one touchdown.
This is how it plays out: The Patriots build an early lead. The Dolphins abandon the run game and—despite Bush's contributions as a receiver—are no match for Tom Brady's onslaught.
Week 14: at San Francisco 49ers
Projected stats: 21 carries for 70 yards; two receptions for eight yards and one touchdown.
The 49ers are not the team you want to see when pursuing a rushing title. San Francisco—and its top-ranked defense—becomes the unofficial graveyard for Bush's title hopes.
Week 15: Jacksonville Jaguars
Projected stats: 18 carries for 99 yards and one touchdown; two receptions for nine yards.
Bush is glad to be home. Far, far away from the Bay Area.
The Jaguars—who held runners to 3.8 yards per carry in 2011—however, are no doormat. Bush is held in check for much of the game but breaks off a couple of big gains.
Week 16: Buffalo Bills
Projected stats: 12 carries for 56 yards; zero receptions.
Bush dominates the first quarter but tweaks his hamstring and sits out the second half. Thomas and Miller pick up the slack en route to a convincing victory for the Dolphins.
Week 17: at New England Patriots
Projected stats: 17 carries for 114 yards and one touchdown; four receptions for 60 yards and one touchdown.
In the regular season finale, with no real shot at the title, Bush has his best game of the year. But—to borrow a faded cliche—it's too little, too late.
Projected totals for regular season: 262 carries for 1,286 yards (4.9 average) and eight touchdowns; 45 receptions for 365 yards and four touchdowns.
While Bush will ultimately fall short of his lofty goal in 2012, I see him having an excellent year—a contract year, at that—and earning a lucrative paycheck in the process. Not a bad consolation prize.
And there's always 2013 to win the rushing title. Or 2014, 2015, 2016...
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