Miami Dolphins: Is Reggie Bush the Key to the 'Phins' Offense?

Ben StepanskyCorrespondent ISeptember 26, 2012

Reggie Bush is essential to the Dolphins' offense
Reggie Bush is essential to the Dolphins' offenseMarc Serota/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins fans held their breath when Reggie Bush went down last week with less than half a minute left in the first half. Then, as Bush was able to walk off the field, fans cursed head coach Joe Philbin's name for putting their injury-prone running back into the avoidable situation.

Bush, who has a history of leg injuries, most noticeably a broken fibula that caused him to miss eight games in 2010, was called on to run out the clock before the half. With Miami leading 10-3, Philbin had no intention of marching up the field but instead to go into halftime with the lead.

Philbin's questionable call put Miami's victory hopes in peril as Bush twisted his knee on the play and would not return in the second half.

Without Bush in the game to start the second half, the Dolphins' offense struggled to find its identity. 

On their second play from scrimmage, quarterback Ryan Tannehill was picked off by LaRon Landry, who returned it for a touchdown and tied the game.

Their next possession was thwarted by a fumble on the first play through the slippery hands of Bush's replacement Daniel Thomas.

So, no, I would not say that Reggie Bush is the key to the Dolphins' offense. More defiantly I would state that Reggie Bush is the Dolphins' offense.

Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill is a liability behind center. There is no denying that. He will continue to be a question mark until he can settle into his own skin as a starting NFL quarterback. 

That could take years.

Against a New York Jets defense that allowed five passing touchdowns through the first two weeks, Tannehill threw for 196 yards and an interception while connecting on just 16 of his 36 pass attempts (44 percent).

Even Mark Sanchez had a better completion percentage, completing 21-of-45 attempts (47 percent).

Daniel Thomas did a mediocre job filling in for Bush, carrying the ball 19 times for 69 yards and a score. He lacks explosiveness, evidenced by his inability to break a carry for more than nine yards.

Lamar Miller rushed nine times for 48 yards, including a 22-yard burst that built momentum and led to a Miami touchdown.

Neither of these backs, however, match up to Bush's skill set or experience. 

Before his injury, Bush had accumulated 61 yards on 10 carries, which was good for a 6.1 yards per carry average. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry in Week 2 against the Oakland Raiders when he rushed for 172 yards on 26 carries.

Bush was poised for another big game against the Jets and their 28th-ranked rushing defense. In fact, the Dolphins ran for nearly as many yards as they passed for, 185 to 196.

Despite missing the second half of Sunday's game, Bush remains among the top five running backs in total rushing yards. His 302 yards on 50 carries ranks fifth, and his 6.0 yards per carry average is the fourth-highest in the league.

Bush is also regarded as a reliable receiving back. Along with starting tight end Anthony Fasano, his 10 receptions are tied for third most on the Dolphins.

During his first two seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Bush hauled in a remarkable number of catches while splitting carries with Deuce McAllister in 2006 and Aaron Stecker in 2007.

In his rookie season, Bush caught 88 passes for 742, which would be solid numbers for a No. 2 wide receiver. The next year, he brought in 73 passes for 417 yards.

He has seen his receiving numbers drop in the past few years, especially in Miami without a premier quarterback like Drew Brees in New Orleans.

Bush is also a threat returning the ball but saw his attempts plummet when he became the feature back in New Orleans.

The Dolphins will certainly need him back this week against the Arizona Cardinals and their tough defense. The Cards rank seventh in the league against passers and 17th against the run. Without Bush, Tannehill and the Miami offense could be in for a long day.

ESPN reported that there was no structural damage to Bush's knee. He has been rehabbing hard this week and could be ready as soon as Sunday to return to the field.

Bush's injury in the waning seconds of the first half certainly got Joe Philbin rethinking his game plan:

Right, wrong or indifferent, you certainly could argue we made some mistakes -- or I made some mistakes, I should clarify that. You know, every situation's unique. You have to argue as a coach, do you have faith in your players to execute a base play in your offense and run the ball, or do you want to take a knee? I sometimes struggle with that.

He won't want to risk his biggest playmaker's health in the future. If a similar situation arises on Sunday, kneel the ball, Phil.

It sounds like Reggie Bush will be ready for game day in Week 4. He may see more carries go the way of Daniel Thomas or Lamar Miller to lighten the load on his fragile knee. But even if Bush is only 75 percent healthy, he should still be the most instrumental Dolphins player on the field.