FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Wasn’t Reggie Bush labeled a bust after a few lack luster years in New Orleans? Unlike the helpless defenders he faced in college, the former number two overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft couldn’t shake the critic’s labels early in his career.
He’s too injury-prone. He’s not big enough to be an every down back. He’s not the Gale Sayers/Barry Sanders type everyone expected.
After five up-and-down seasons with the Saints — the ups including a Super Bowl ring in 2009 and tying the team’s single-game record for touchdowns (4) while the downs consisted of not finishing a regular season since 2006 — Bush found new life with the Miami Dolphins. Now, in his second year since taking his talents to South Beach, Bush appears to have blossomed into the every down all-purpose back that everyone hoped he’d be coming out of the University of Southern Cal.
“Clearly, Reggie Bush is, everybody knows, he is a special player. (He) has great speed, that’s the first thing that jumps out at you. He’s shifty, he runs with a little bit more power than people give him credit for,” Ryan said on Wednesday.
Bush is coming off the top rushing performance of the season thus far with a 197 total yard-2 touchdown effort in a convincing home win against the Oakland Raiders. He showed off his aforementioned quiet power on his first touchdown run of the day — breaking multiple tackles where the Raider defenders had a legitimate shot at making a play. But, as Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin noted, Bush can also still turn on the burners.
“The second [touchdown], the 65 yard run, I don’t believe he got touched if I’m not mistaken.”
Wrapping up dynamic players has been a problem through the first two weeks for Ryan’s defense — particularly against running backs. A problem that, Ryan says, is hard to correct on a week-by-week basis.
“Outside of once a week, you’re not really in pads. So you don’t have the chance to take guys to the ground. We practice. We have a few things that we do [in regards of tackling better]. It’s hard to simulate on the practice field. You work your techniques and hope for the best,” he said.
Dating back to last season, the Jets struggles against “scat” backs have been well documented with poor tackling as the highlight. C.J. Spiller put up the second-highest rushing total against the Jets in the Ryan era. Many of those yards, as Ryan stated, came after Spiller had broken tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage. In 2011 Ray Rice (130 total yds, 1 TD), Darren McFadden (171 yards, 2 TDs), LeSean McCoy (102 yards, 3 TDs) and Ahmad Bradshaw (54 yards, 2 TDs) all proved to be too much for the Jets rush defense to handle — an area of defense where Ryan prides himself on.
Only their Week 1 game versus Spiller and the Bills resulted in a win. The rest? All losses where the lowest point total for the opposing team was 29 (vs NYG) and the lowest scoring differential was 10 (vs OAK).
A big reason for their issues stems from personnel mismatches. With the only exceptions going to newly acquired Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, who have coverage concerns of their own, the Jets have no one who could match up and cover these all-purpose backs. Linebackers are either too big or lack in coverage speed. Cornerbacks have the speed to keep up with them, but not the muscle to bring them down.
Aaron Maybin, the team’s designated pass rusher and fastest front seven player, agreed that Bush will be the focal point of their attention come Sunday.
“He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. There aren’t too many players that fit that description walking around in the NFL. When you see that at the running back position, it changes the way a defense has to defend against those teams. He’s definitely a guy that in your game plan. You definitely know where he is when he comes on the field,” Maybin said.
When it comes to the field of SunLife Stadium, Bush has felt right at home. In his last five home games, Bush has eclipsed 100 rushing yards three times — averaging 109 total yards, 1.2 touchdowns and 5.1 yards per touch in that time. Numbers that he is not ready to take credit for by himself.
“It wasn’t just me. It was the offensive line. It was the receivers. Everybody contributed,” he said in a conference call to the New York Media on Wednesday.
It’ll take a team effort to stop Bush this weekend, as the only bust he’s now focused on is the bronze type in Canton.
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