How Reggie Bush Can Spark the Detroit Lions' Run Game

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How Reggie Bush Can Spark the Detroit Lions' Run Game
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Newly-signed Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush has had an interesting career.

He came to the New Orleans Saints in 2006 from the University of Southern California as the No. 2 overall selection in the draft and immediately had a lot on his shoulders. The city was coming back from the devastating Hurricane Katrina, and landing Bush in the draft was a sign of hope for the franchise.

However, he failed to live up to expectations. Injuries mounted and there were questions about his effectiveness. Was he being used properly as a running back or was he just a receiver that simply lined up in the backfield?

After five years of struggles with the Saints, Bush moved on to the Miami Dolphins. He rejuvenated his career there, cracking the century mark in his first season and coming 14 yards shy in his second. He wasn't as much of a factor in the passing game as he was with the Saints, but he still showed the ability to catch passes and make defenders miss in space.

Deemed unfit for the Dolphins' move to a zone-blocking scheme, Bush is now with the Lions and is the ideal fit for their pass-first offense.

The Lions are what I like to call a "direct" running team. There's not many stretch concepts incorporated in the offense, which is an old school One Back scheme, and that's a fit for Bush's running style. He's a downhill runner that does a good job of attacking an assigned gap and getting to the second level by way of his feet.

Bush's quick feet have been a major asset in his career and arguably one of his only consistent traits. He's been able to make defenders miss throughout his career, and they've actually helped him become a better ball-carrier over the years.

When a running back is patient and has deadly agility, it can be quite problematic for defenses to slow him down, as witnessed in Week 4 against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Dolphins are in 22 personnel, with two tight ends lined up to the right of the formation and a fullback joining Bush in the backfield. On defense, the Cardinals have nine defenders within five yards or fewer of the line of scrimmage.

Once he gets the hand off to his left, he stretched the play wide to the far hash and forced the Cardinals defense to over-pursue.

He's usually not an effective stretch runner because he doesn't have the instincts to find the cutback lane on the backside. However, he does a good job of running on the front-side of plays. On this play, he hits the alley once it finally opens up by planting his outside foot into the ground.

The cut gets him into the open field, where he's most dangerous. The play-side safety comes up to take an angle, but Bush easily outruns it much like he used to do during his USC days. He picks up 21 yards on the play, which could of be even more with the Lions because of their spacing.

Bush is not only an asset to the Lions in the running game. As noted, he was a great threat for the Saints when they gave him option routes out of the backfield because of his elusiveness. At times with the Dolphins, he showed the pass-catching ability that was on display in New Orleans.

In Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills, Bush ran a wonderful wheel route for a touchdown when matched up with a linebacker.

He was lined up to quarterback Ryan Tannehill's left in shotgun set. The Dolphins had 11 personnel on the field, with Bush making up the lone running back and tight end Anthony Fasano flexed out to the right. 

The lone receiver on the backside of the offense's Trips Right formation was going to run a shallow cross underneath. Ideally, the crossing route would force the deep safety and near cornerback to come up just enough so Bush could run his wheel route behind them.

Once Tannehill caught the snap, Bush released outside the formation and worked his way up the field. It was a matchup advantage for the Dolphins because the running back could easily outrun the linebacker. With the cornerback late getting over the top of the route, Bush had a chance to make a catch over the shoulder for a touchdown.

And that's exactly what happened. Tannehill threw a well-placed pass and Bush hauled it in over his shoulder. The reception showed his soft hands and great concentration.

Overall, Bush is going to be an upgrade for the Lions' running game. According to Pro-Football-Reference, the team was ranked No. 21 in rushing first downs and No. 20 in yards per carry in 2012.

Two reasons for the struggles was inconsistent blocking up front by the offensive line and a lack of quality at the running back position. 

Bush isn't the same player he was at USC, but he still has the speed, agility and pass-catching ability to take advantage of the space that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and wide receiver Calvin Johnson create.

He'll have the opportunity to rush for more than 900 yards again this season, but could have more receptions in the passing game because of the aforementioned space. The additional room to run could be significant for Bush, as he (fortunately) still has some wiggle in his game to make defenders miss at the second level.

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