Bush ready to put injury-plagued season behind him

Posted Feb 5, 2015

The Lions could still add another speed back to the mix via the draft, but running back Reggie Bush is eager to show he still has what it takes.

The Detroit Lions need to get more out of their running game in 2015. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said after the season that he likes balance in his offense.

The Lions had roughly a 62/38 percent split in pass plays vs. run plays this past season. Situational football is a big factor in that ratio, but Mayhew would like to see it closer to 50/50.

The question Mayhew and the Lions have to ask themselves this offseason is whether they believe they have the runners on the roster in Joique Bell, Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick and George Winn to get the job done.

The Lions struggled this past season to obtain the same kind of consistency in their run game they had the year prior in 2013. Why?

The decline in play upfront certainly had a lot to do with the decrease in production from the run game.

Detroit averaged 3.95 yards when running behind the right side of the offensive line in 2014. They averaged 3.85 yards when running left and only 2.9 yards on average going up the middle.

Those averages were down across the board from the year prior, when the Lions averaged 4.49 yards (right), 3.92 (left) and 3.59 (middle).

Another factor in the decline was the fact that Bush was hampered by an ankle injury most of the year.

Two years ago, in Bush’s first season with Detroit, he was a 1,000-yard rusher, the team's first since 2004 (Kevin Jones). He and Bell became the first running back duo in NFL history to each have at least 500 rushing and receiving yards in a season. The Lions averaged 112.0 yards per game on the ground in 2013.

One question that could impact the Lions’ offseason if whether they think Bush can still be the runner he was in 2013. Was 2014 just a case of a tough year with injuries? Or is Bush, who turns 30-years-old in March, starting to decline?

“The guys on this team and coaches who see me every day know what I’m capable of and they know what I can do,” Bush said right after the season.

His game is predicated on speed. The ankle injury he suffered early in the year, and then continued to aggravate throughout the course of the season, never allowed him to play his brand of football until the very end of the season.

Bush missed five games due to the injury and finished with just 297 rushing yards and another 253 receiving.

In the process, Bell seemed to establish himself as a reliable No. 1 option, finishing with 870 yards and seven touchdowns and adding 322 more receiving yards and a score.

Bush’s ankle injury was finally in the rearview mirror by the end of the year and he showed flashes of his 2013 self with explosive touchdown runs Week 16 in Chicago and during the Lions’ playoff loss in Dallas. In the latter, Bush used his speed to get outside and his quickness to freeze a defender in the open field on his way to an 18-yard touchdown run. It was vintage Bush.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

“It’s tough because I was injured,” Bush said of his 2014 season. “I haven’t been injured like this in a while where I’ve missed a majority of the season. That’s tough not to be out there. Just coming back and getting re-injured coming back getting re-injured that was pretty tough to go through mentally.

“I really started to feel good (at the end of the year) and obviously it’s unfortunate it took this long. I really started to feel good and back to myself.”

Bush has two years remaining on the four-year, $16 million contract he signed before the 2013 season. There’s been some talk outside the organization that Bush could be a “cap casualty” but it saves the team less than $2 million by cutting him. Then they have to pay a player to take his place. What's the savings in that?

It makes more sense to bring Bush back and expect that he can stay healthy and be the same kind of contributor he was in 2013, which was one of the best seasons of his career.

“I’m planning on playing for a while,” Bush said. “As long as my contract says two more years on it, I’ll probably be back unless somebody tells me otherwise. I do know the business side, but I have a contract that says I’m here for another two years.”

The Lions are anticipating a big jump in production offensively in 2015. It’ll be the second season in Joe Lombardi’s system. They’re also expected to address some issues upfront along the offensive line this offseason. They already began that process last month with announcement that long-time center Dominic Raiola wouldn’t be back with the team.

The Lions could still add another speed back to the mix via the draft, but Bush is eager to show he can still be the running back he was at the end of the year, and not the injury-plagued one early on.

“What happened this season has no bearing on what will happen next year,” Bush said.