Andy Benoit of www.NFLTouchdown.com
What Reggie Bush does this season is going to establish his reputation for years to come. After being the most heralded rookie to enter the league since Hershel Walker, the former Heisman Trophy winner, at times in ’06, dazzled defenses en route to posting 565 yards rushing, 742 yards receiving and eight total touchdowns. They were solid but far from spectacular stats, but the fact that the rebuilt, post-Katrina Saints got all the way to the NFC Championship game meant fans had no trouble giving Bush the benefit of the doubt.
Last year, however, was a different story. New Orleans struggled from the get-go and Bush’s receiving yards dropped by more than 300. When bruising running back Deuce McAlister went down with a torn ACL in Week 3, fans began to see Bush not as a multipurpose weapon, but rather, as a dancing, impatient runner who lacked the durability to carry a feature load. Bush averaged just 3.7 yards per rush last season and his longest run went for only 22 yards. That would make him football’s Troy Glaus: a home run threat who only hits singles.
Those who know football know that Bush’s impact on New Orleans’s offense is invaluable. Few players in the league attract as much attention as he does. But public opinion is shaped largely by those who don’t know the game and only understand a player’s fantasy performance.
The fact of the matter is Bush does need to improve. His awareness in the run attack has been shaky, at best, and he has exchanged far too many decent gains for failed attempts at the monster play. Improving his patience and increasing his strength will naturally improve his numbers. But failing to do so will give the former No. 2 pick a three-year record of statistical mediocrity, something that fans will one day wake up and call bunk on. Once that moment comes, it will be extremely difficult to reverse. After all, Americans have proven before that they have no problem criticizing a Bush.