A new twist on an old puzzler helps give the answer to the question of what kind of added value
If he looks like a running back, runs like a running back, and catches passes like a wide receiver, what is he?
Answer: a multi-talented offensive player who brings a dimension that the Lions have lacked in a single running back.
Throughout training camp and heading into Friday night's first exhibition game against the Jets, Bush has displayed a wide-ranging skill set that includes his ability to run routes and catch passes with the fluid movements of a full-time wide receiver.
"He's smooth," quarterback
The Lions hope to win matchups against defenses that will have to decide how to cover Bush while contending with
Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has seen the dilemmas Bush creates in training camp practices.
Bush reminds him of the problems Jahvid Best created before his career ended prematurely because of concussion-related issues.
Cunningham recalled how Bush made an adjustment on a TD catch in a recent red-zone drill.
"It was a crossing route," Cunningham said. "We just couldn't get him. Too much speed. Anytime he spreads out, I get very nervous."
It isn't uncommon for running backs to catch a lot of passes as Bush did as a rookie in 2006 when he established his career high with 88 catches. Bush's 88 catches are the third most by a back since he entered the NFL. Only Steven Jackson with 90 in '06 and Brian Westbrook with 90 the next year had more.
Marshall Faulk and Westbrook were two of the most accomplished receiving backs in recent years.
From 1998 through 2002, Faulk had five straight seasons of 80 or more catches for the Colts and Rams. Westbrook had 77 catches for the Eagles in 2006 and 90 in '07. In six of his nine seasons, Westbrook averaged at least nine years per catch.
Bush followed up his rookie season in 2007 with 77 catches in 12 games. That is only one catch short of his combined total the last two seasons of 78 catches in a Miami offense that either had quarterback issues or was geared toward running.
In Detroit, Bush's ability to do more than catch screen passes and short outlet throws should expand Stafford's options.
"He's just one of those guys who knows how to play football."
That doesn't mean Bush will be used as a pure wide receiver. The Lions signed him to play running back first, but they are well aware of his receiving skills.
"He can basically run the whole route tree, especially from a slot alignment," Linehan said. "You're not going to ask him to do everything you'd ask a wide receiver to do, but he has that ability."
Bush recalled his early exposure to the passing game at Helix High School in La Mesa, Calif.
"That's kind of been my thing since high school," he said. "I've always been able to catch the ball pretty naturally. At the same time, it's something I enjoy doing, too."
Bush understands the impact a pass-catch back can have on a defense, and the adjustments it forces them to make both in personnel and scheme.
"Now it forces them to make a decision, of whether they put a nickel, safety or cornerback in there instead of a linebacker," he said. "It definitely creates problems for a defensive coordinator.
"Let's say they put a cornerback in there. We can run the ball. If they put a bigger guy in, maybe we can throw the ball. It's part of that cat and mouse deal."