The upcoming NFL season could prove pivotal toward answering that question.
While Bush’s girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, does have a wonderful posterior, I highly doubt he would be content being known as “that NFL player Kim Kardashian is with.”
Despite being behind only Peyton Manning in NFL endorsement deals, and despite being drafted No. 2 overall by the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Bush’s illustrious star has slowly dimmed to such a point that another lackluster season could potentially lead to Bush’s star-power fizzling out.
How could this happen to the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 player on nearly every draft board prior to the 2006 draft?
The Saints gobbled up the former USC scat back, even though NO already had Deuce McAllister (a mainstay in the Saints’ backfield, rushing for over 1,000 yards in three of the four previous seasons before Bush’s arrival).
After breaking out for 141 all-purpose yards in a 19-14 win against Cleveland in his first NFL game, Bush experienced a roller-coaster rookie season:
Week Two: A week after showcasing his talents in Cleveland, Bush only accounted for five yards rushing on six attempts—the first of nine times Bush rushed for less than 30 yards in a game.
Week Five: Reggie was the hero after returning a punt for the game-winning, and his first career, touchdown with less than five minutes remaining.
Week 10: It wasn’t until Week 10 that Bush finally scored his first touchdown from scrimmage on a 15-yard double reverse.
Week 11: He put up his second game of over 100 all-purpose yards
Week 13: Four touchdowns and 168 total yards.
Week 15: Only 33 yards from scrimmage.
Week 16: Bush rushes for over 100 yards for the first time, averaging 6.3 yards on 20 carries.
Week 17: Only 20 yards rushing.
Even with #25’s peaks and valleys in year one, he was a hot commodity, thanks to a couple of exciting plays (including an 88-yard TD catch in the NFC Championship game) and the Saints falling just one game shy of making the Super Bowl.
Bush had finished the season fairly strong, scoring seven touchdowns in the Saints’ final five regular-season games and finding the end zone twice in the playoffs.
Despite finishing with only 565 yards rushing (3.6 yards per carry), the Saints had found ways to utilize Bush’s skill set in the offense. His sure hands led to 742 yards receiving (8.4 yards per catch) and another 154 yards receiving in two playoff games.
Year two came with lots of expectations, and also a few questions of whether Bush could overtake McAllister and become the featured back. Would his slight build stand up to running between the tackles for 25 carries per game?
When Bush took over the majority of the carries after McAllister went down with a season-ending knee injury in Week Three, he was supposed to become the superstar he had been hyped to be since his days at Southern Cal.
Instead, he never had a 100+ yards rushing, he suffered injuries to his shin and PCL, he was not the threat he had been his rookie season, and he fumbled the ball eight times on the season, despite only playing in 12 games.
Bush finished with only 581 yards rushing—38th overall in the NFL — less than a seventh-round pick out of Ottawa College (Derrick Ward), a sixth-round pick out of Toledo (Chester Taylor), and a guy named Maurice (Morris).
The Saints’ third-string running back, Aaron Stecker, had only 140 yards less than Bush, despite getting 10 carries only five times.
More alarming, Bush’s receiving yards fell to 417, and he averaged only 5.7 yards per catch. New Orleans also elected to remove Bush from punt-return duties, limiting his ability to make the big game-changing play on special teams.
So what will it take this season for Bush to regain his superstar status?
If Reggie Bush wants to move into the upper echelon of NFL offensive players, he is going to need help. Now, I know that all football players need help because the game is so team oriented, but I am referring more to help from the sidelines. Bush needs head coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Doug Marrone to find a way to utilize Bush to the fullest extent possible.
It was proven last season that Bush is not big enough to last 17 weeks while running between the tackles. He is not built like LenDale White or even Warrick Dunn.
Therefore, Payton and Marrone have to always be searching for ways to get Bush out on the edge or in open space: screens out of the backfield, quick screens in the slot, halfback draws out of a four wide-receiver sets, well-timed “gadget plays”, quick routes out of the slot, lining Bush up wide and overloading the opposite side of the formation, etc.
If given space, Bush is capable of making big plays. Don’t look for him to make the same plays he made in college, or even the same plays Michael Vick was capable of making, but he has the ability to make defenders miss.
He is elusive, and his ability to stop on a dime allows him to do more than just a simple juke move (which works for many college running backs).
It is also important that he be used wisely as a decoy. Just like when Chicago’s Devin Hester is in the game on offense, it is important he is in on all types of plays. Bush can excel if the defense isn’t keying on him every play. The coaching staff must have him playing alongside McAllister at times, lined up in different formations, and being in motion on occasion.
Accompanying that, Bush needs to become an excellent blocker. The more Bush can be used to block...the more often he will be on the field. Amazingly, like most players, Reggie has to be on the field to be able to become an elite back.
Blocking will also lead to checkdowns, and checkdowns are an excellent open-field avenue that will allow Bush room, and will help him avoid the big uglies of the defensive line. Plus, with a top QB in Drew Brees, Bush has a slinger that is unafraid to find the short option rather than chucking for the deep ball.
But the No. 1 way for Reggie Bush to get out of the shadow of Kardashian’s derrière and regain his star status? Well, the Saints have to win, of course. It’s easy to be forgotten on a team that is losing, but hard pressed for a winning squad to be unnoticed.
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