In the early portion of his career, Reggie Bush was treated like a hybrid running back and wide receiver. In the past three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions, however, he's functioned as a three-down back and has thrived.
Now, he might need to grow accustomed to his hybrid role again.
With new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi coming from the New Orleans Saints—where Bush initially played the role Darren Sproles came to fill in recent years—it's very possible his role in Detroit's offense will change. And the Lions could also go to the running-back-by-committee style that the Saints employ.
To his credit, Bush seems to be taking the possible adjustment in stride, as he told Michael Rothstein of ESPN:
We had a pretty good rotation going last (season), so, you know, we did some pretty special things with that. It can only go up from there, even if the workload is less for both of us, that’s only going to help us toward the end of the season, help us to stay healthy and probably play a little bit stronger and better toward the end of the season.
He also commented on the likely reliance on a fullback more often this season:
It’s just a guy in front of you. The reads are a little bit different because you have to wait on the fullback to make their move and make their block.
There’s a little bit more patience involved when you have a fullback in front of you as opposed to when you’re back there by yourself and you can just read the defense and you’re just waiting on the offensive line.
In New Orleans from 2006 to 2010, Bush averaged 8.7 carries and 4.9 receptions per game. In the past three seasons, he's carried the ball 14.8 times per game and caught just 2.9 passes per contest.
While the reception numbers are a bit skewed—Bush caught 161 passes in his first two seasons, but his 54 receptions last year was his highest total since those first two years—the rushing numbers are telling. So, too, is his production. In the last three years, he's rushed for 3,078 yards, nearly 1,000 yards more than he accumulated in five seasons with the Saints.
It's fair to point out that he struggled with injuries more in his New Orleans days, but he still was never used as a primary back.
If Bush is receptive to the change, however, it could be the best thing for his career. He's 29 years old, nearing the age when many running backs begin to visibly decline, and his time as a primary runner is nearing a close anyway.
But as a hybrid weapon, he still has the speed and shiftiness to be effective for several more seasons. And he's always been an excellent receiver and matchup nightmare when he lines up out wide, giving an already dangerous Lions offense another dimension.
Plus, whether Bush likes it or not, Joique Bell is probably going to see an expanded role this season. The Lions didn't break the bank re-signing him, but they did give him a fair share of guaranteed coin, as Fox Sports NFL tweeted:
Joique Bell receives 2-yr extension worth $7M; more guaranteed money ($4.3M) than Reggie Bush got from Lions last year. (via @RossJonesFOX)— FOX Sports NFL (@NFLonFOX) March 11, 2014
So, what can we expect from Bush? Well, if you are a fantasy owner, you may want to drop him a bit in your rankings. It's very possible his 1,000-rushing-yard seasons are behind him. He could maintain sneaky value as a receiving option, however, and he should be able to replicate his 500-plus yards and three touchdowns in the passing game from a season ago.
Or Lombardi could utilize Bush in much the same way as he was a year ago. Who knows? But the fact that he is already addressing the possible adjustments in the running game suggests that won't be the case.
And that Bush is ready to once again play the role of the versatile weapon on offense.