REGGIE ROARS IN MOTOWN
By Joe Kilroy
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Widely considered the second worst kept “secret” of this year’s NFL free agency signing period – only Mike Wallace heading to Miami was more commonly known – Reggie Bush inked a 4-year, $16 million deal with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday.
While teams such as Cincinnati and Washington were interested in signing Bush as a third-down / change-of-pace back, the Lions were willing to offer him the featured role in their backfield.
Some reports have stated, that as further added incentive, not only have the Lions agreed to place Bush atop their depth chart, but they will also give him the opportunity to function as a true three-down back. Given Bush’s history of injuries that may be a risky proposition, but with or without that distinction Reggie is poised to thrive in Motown.
The Lions Pass Rate and Bush’s Reception Totals
The Detroit Lions threw the ball more than any other team in the league last season with an average of 46.2 pass attempts per game. In total they threw the ball 740 times and completed 445 of those attempts. Of those completions running backs Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, and Kevin Smith accounted for 96 of them.
With Reggie Bush now in town, however, one can fully expect he will record the “lions” share of receptions out of the Detroit backfield.
Some may point to the fact the former number two overall selection out of USC hasn’t recorded more than 50 receptions in a season since 2008 as being fair reason to call into question his level of prowess within that department. Don’t be fooled by such statistics, however, as there is good reason it’s been so long since Bush has topped that figure.
In 2008, when Bush last surpassed the half-century mark in receptions, he did so while participating in just 10 games for the New Orleans Saints. The following year, while still in New Orleans, Bush saw his playing time reduced in favor of Pierre Thomas and posted 47 receptions in 14 contests. The year after that Bush missed half the season but still recorded 34 receptions during the eight games in which he was healthy.
Over the past two years Bush has been a member of the Miami Dolphins. Despite functioning as their primary back, however, and while missing only one outing during that span, Bush never achieved more than 43 receptions in a season as a Dolphin.
How could this be?
Well, for one thing Bush wasn’t exactly surrounded by a wealth of talent during his time in Miami. Another factor at play is that the Dolphins hadn’t thrown the ball nearly as often as the Saints did – and still do – when Bush was in New Orleans. They also didn’t come anywhere close to approaching the number of pass attempts Detroit’s current offensive attack doles out on a regular basis.
Why Reggie Could Be a Three-down Back with Detroit
What Bush was able to show us during his stint with the Dolphins is that he is not only capable of going without a significant injury over the course of a full season, but that he can do so while handling roughly 15 carries per game. He also proved to be a productive rusher for the first time in his career having averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 444 rushing attempts over a two year period in Miami.
With that last bit of information in mind it suggests that despite what many around the league may believe, it isn’t farfetched to think Reggie Bush can function as a three-down back within Detroit’s offense.
I state this not only due to Bush’s accomplishments in Miami, but because the Detroit Lions don’t run the ball all that often to begin with. In 2011 Detroit averaged just 22.25 rushing attempts per game. In 2012 that figure rose slightly to 24.4 rushing attempts per contest.
What that figure tells us, combined with the assessment of Reggie’s time in Miami, is that as long as the Lions offensive game plan remains the same – and there is no reason to believe it won’t – Bush can be on the field almost the entire game aside from the 10 carries or so that may be given to Mikel Leshoure during certain situations or whenever Reggie simply needs a breather.
The more time Bush spends on the field, whether he’s carrying the ball often or not, the more opportunities he has to add to his reception totals. And those reception totals are going to make him a PPR monster in the years ahead.
Projecting Bush’s Totals as a Lion
When all is said and done it is well within reason to expect Reggie Bush to total a minimum of 1500-total yards and 7-9 touchdowns on a yearly basis with Detroit. Those figures are predicated on the belief Bush will carry the ball 225 times at a rate of 4.4 yards per carry while hauling in 60 passes at a rate of 7.5 yards per catch.
In reality, however, Reggie could average as high as 9.0 yards or better per reception (Joique Bell averaged 9.3 yards per catch on 52 receptions with Detroit last season) and total as many as 70-80 catches out of the backfield.
And considering Bush averaged 5.1 yards per carry with the Dolphins in 2011, and that Bell averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 82 rushing attempts last season for Detroit, its well within the realm of possibility that Bush could run for better than 4.5 yards per carry in the year ahead.
If he should reach the high end of those estimates that would increase Bush’s total yardage projection in 2013 to something in the 1700-1850 range. That’s a pretty impressive figure to go along with so many receptions and 7-9 touchdowns in any format, but especially so in leagues that reward points for receptions.
Read more DFW articles by Joe Kilroy