How Reggie Bush Got His Groove Back
September 18, 2012 4:20 AM EST
Few NFL players have had their ups and downs like Reggie Bush.
The former Heisman Trophy winner entered the 2006 NFL Draft after his junior year with lofty expectations, and was expected to be selected first overall, only to watch as the Houston Texans selected defensive end Mario Williams instead.
Bush would eventually go second to the New Orleans Saints, and proceeded to have a solid rookie season, as the all-purpose back rushed for 565 yards to go along with 88 receptions for 742 yards.
But then things took a turn for Bush. He received negative publicity from his alleged involvement with marketers at USC, and would eventually have his Heisman stripped. He also became somewhat over-exposed in the media, with numerous endorsement deals and a high-profile romance with socialite Kim Kardashian.
Injuries would also hamper his growth. Bush failed to play 16 games in a season in his following four seasons with the Saints, and criticism began to mount. Some critics were quick to point out that Bush never came close to rushing for 1,000 yards, and was branded as simply an excellent college player who had a very good rookie season.
There were some doubts about Bush even when he electrified college football. While at USC, he wasn't considered a traditional running back, as running back partner LenDale White looked far more comfortable rushing between the tackles, while Bush looked too eager to make an exciting play despite sometimes poor results.
With the Saints, Bush failed to fully establish himself as the feature back as the high-octane offense, under the new guidance of star quarterback Drew Brees, utilized several players. Productive backs such as Deuce McAllister, Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell, and Chris Ivory were able to receive a sizable portion of the running plays at the expense of Bush.
While Brees rarely hesitated to throw to Bush, he had a collection of speedy and effective receivers in Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, and Robert Meachem, who successfully carried the load for deep threats and slant routes, making Bush a less desirable a target.
With a broken bone in his right leg that sidelined him for six weeks in 2010, Bush became almost an afterthought in New Orleans. It appeared that his days with the Saints were nearing an end.
On July 28, 2011, Bush was dealt to the Miami Dolphins, a team devoid of offensive star power beyond wide out Brandon Marshall.
In Miami, Bush would be the feature back, and there would be no true competition to take the position away from him. He was healthy and hungry to receive a large bulk of the carries. Bush was also eager to prove that he deserved to be the prominent running back that many expected him when he entered the professional ranks.
After the deal was announce, Bush posted on Twitter: "Change is never easy but I look forward to building something special in Miami and can't wait to embark on this new journey!"
Dolphin fans were quick to embrace Bush, cheering him on in the 2011 preseason despite rather subpar results. There was little for Dolphins to be enthusiastic about, but Bush brought a sense of optimism that the club would be better than many skeptics had suggested.
Known for his intense off-season regimen, Bush looked primed for a return to his rookie form. The self-described workout fanatic, Bush lifted more weights and focused on his agility.
While Miami failed to the make the playoffs in 2011, Bush proved he was a valuable asset. Despite a slow start where he failed to rush for 80 yards in his first six games, Bush finished the final 10 games with excellent numbers.
In his final four games of 2011, Bush rushed for 100 or more yards. He ended the season with 1,086 rushing yards, which was 11th best in the league. The best rusher for New Orleans that season was newcomer Darren Sproles, an all-purpose back like Bush. Sproles finished with 603 rushing yards, and was 33rd overall.
Bush continued to be a receiving threat in Miami. He finished third on the club in receptions, and fifth in receiving yards in 2011.
The Dolphins have received more of the same from Bush in 2012. Bush has 241 rushing yards, and trails only C.J. Spiller in the category. Against the Raiders on Sunday, Bush rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns, as Miami thumped Oakland, 35-13.
The team expectations remain low in Miami, as the Dolphins have a rookie quarterback and face stiff competition from the New England Patriots and New York Jets in the AFC East. Miami won only six games in 2011, and were not expected to finish with a .500 record in 2012.
The Dolphins have a new head coach in Joe Philbin, and added nine players in the 2012 NFL Draft, including first-round pick Ryan Tannehill, who had a solid outing against the Raiders.
The team remains rather inexperienced, and there are questions about the offensive line and with Marshall now on the Chicago Bears, Tannehill may not have a big-play threat.
Some expect the Dolphins to finish with among the worst records in the league. Miami may need another season to find additional talent, and to get Tannehill more comfortable in the professional ranks.
But the running game appears to be firmly in place with Bush receiving a larger role. The 27-year-old seems to be fulfilling his promise with a team that not only appreciates him, but relies on his desire to succeed.
Much like Bush's revival in South Florida, the Dolphins might be ready to make a comeback of their own.
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