Hitting His Stride

Posted Nov 9, 2011

Halfway through the 2011 season the Miami Dolphins have unleashed the type of multi-purpose running back on the league they had hoped for back in September.

Reggie Bush has found his zone, especially over the last three games, and if the way he looked at Kansas City last week is any indication that spells trouble for the Washington Redskins. Bush’s total offensive output of 142 yards (92 rushing and 50 receiving) paved the way for Miami to roll to a 31-3 victory, its first of the season.

“I’m falling into a comfort zone I think with this offense and I’m finding my identity,” said Bush, who has rushed for a combined 195 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries in the last two games. “I think that took a little bit of time just with a new system and a new environment. So hopefully it’s something that I can also build on, too. I’m trying to be a leader and helping out guys and at the same time being that playmaker that I know they brought me in here to be.”

What has been real encouraging about Bush’s recent performances is how he has made his yards. Not only has he broken big runs off of sweeps and end arounds but he’s also run well in between the tackles. The 18-yard run that preceded his 28-yard touchdown run in the third quarter came off of right guard as he burst through a hole and juked a few defenders at the second level.

Bush’s touchdown run looked very similar to some of the long runs Ricky Williams broke out of the Wildcat formation when he came in motion and took the handoff following the shotgun snap to quarterback Matt Moore. After he turned the corner behind a kick out block from rookie running back Daniel Thomas, Bush found another gear and sped into the end zone with rookie H-back Charles Clay still blocking for him down the field.

“The offensive line is doing a great job of really dominating up front and that obviously makes thing easier for guys like me and Daniel Thomas,” Bush said. “It really felt like a lot of the credit goes to the offensive line and just the job they’ve been able to do the last few weeks enabling us to just go out and really be playmakers.”

There has only been one game this season when Bush did not reach double digits in carries and that was in Week 2 against the Houston Texans, He rushed six times for 18 yards in a 23-13 loss, but Thomas was the workhorse then with 18 carries for 107 yards.

Bush, who spent his first five seasons with the New Orleans Saints, is averaging 11 rushing attempts per game and has gained 427 yards on the ground for an average of 4.9 yards per carry. In three of the last four games he has averaged almost seven yards per attempt (7.1 at both the Jets and the Chiefs and 6.9 at the Giants), which has Head Coach Tony Sparano feeling better about how Bush is being utilized.

“The way we use Reggie right now and the way we used him (Sunday) is not necessarily the way New Orleans used him,” Sparano said. “He’s been handed the ball a bunch in the last couple weeks. He has more carries right now per game than he ever had in New Orleans. His average per carry right now is better than it ever was in New Orleans and he caught the ball out of the backfield (Sunday).”

The added dimension of Bush as a receiver was on display against the Chiefs as well as he caught three passes for 50 yards. The highlight was an impressive over-the-shoulder reception of a 27-yard pass from quarterback Matt Moore early in the third quarter. One play later Moore hit Brandon Marshall with a 14-yard touchdown pass to stretch the lead to 21-3.

Whenever Bush lines up wide or in the slot he is more often than not matched up with a linebacker, which is a mismatch offensive coordinator Brian Daboll likes to exploit. Now that he has proven himself to be a viable running threat both inside and outside, defenses will have a tougher time game planning for Bush.

“I think my presence on the field is definitely going to force defensive coordinators to know where I’m at,” Bush said. “I know it will get to the point to where they’ll start really focusing their coverages and their pressures based on where I’m at. So hopefully in turn that will open up things for other guys because that’s what this offense is about. We have to be very unselfish because the unselfish attitude is what’s going to enable us to be successful.”

What has Bush most excited is the fact that he is being seen legitimately as a complete running back and somebody who is a threat from just about everywhere. Now defenses can’t just worry about him on third downs like when he was in New Orleans but on first and second downs as well.

Without a doubt the two-play sequence that encompassed the entire 46-yard scoring drive against Kansas City best exemplifies what Bush is all about. On first down he took the inside handoff, started up the middle and hit the hole off right guard for an 18-yard gain, and then followed that up with his end around.

“I think in a nutshell that may say it all,” said Bush, who went out of his way to credit his offensive line, backs and tight ends for giving him room to run. “It says you’ve got to be aware of where this guy is at all times because he can hurt you. Normally, they’ve got the scat back and then they’ve got the bigger back making those runs and it feels good. It does.

“It feels good to be able to be that complete back and to show what I’ve been wanting to show since I’ve gotten to the NFL, which is that I can be that every-down back if needed or I can be the other back if needed. I can do whatever they ask me to, and that’s one of the reasons I came here is to help this offense grow more and just be more versatile. I feel like that’s what we’re doing.”
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