Now that Reggie Bush has signed with the Buffalo Bills, let’s dive into what role he will likely take on in 2016.
The #Bills are signing RB Reggie Bush to a 1-year, incentive-laden deal, source said. Physical was fine, he'll likely practice tomorrow.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 1, 2016
After Monday’s padded practice, Rex Ryan was quoted saying that the Bills’ return game was “not really good right now.” And stated the team was looking for that specialist. This report from Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News hints at Bush being considered for the team’s primary return-man position.
If Bush passes #Bills physical & decides to sign, I'm told it would be 1 yr deal worth up to $3M w incentives mainly tied to special teams.— Vic Carucci (@viccarucci) August 1, 2016
Here’s a comprehensive rundown of how Bush has been utilized in his NFL career:
In the regular-season, Bush has returned 100 punts for 781 yards with four touchdowns. In the 2009 playoffs, he returned 5 punts for 113 yards with one score during the Saints Super Bowl run.
A year before that, he led the league with three punt-return touchdowns. Oddly, he’s only returned one kickoff in his career, which went for 32 yards in 2010 during his tenure in New Orleans.
Last season with the 49ers, he managed just nine yards on two punt returns.
Bush has made 470 grabs for 3,508 yards with 18 receiving touchdowns as a pro, and before his injury-shortened 2015 campaign in San Francisco, he caught at least 35 passes in every season.
His most productive year as a pass-catcher came as a rookie in 2006 when he had 88 catches for 742 yards during the regular season. He added another 10 receptions and 154 yards during the playoffs.
Bush was the most efficient as a receiver in 2013 with the Lions, snagging 54 passes from Matthew Stafford for 503 yards (9.4 yards per catch) with three touchdowns.
With the 49ers, he made four grabs for 19 yards.
At 31, Bush isn’t as explosive as he once was — no players are at that age — but he’s undoubtedly a “space RB” who’s basically a slot receiver, or, let’s say a “screen receiver.”
In 2015, LeSean McCoy caught 18 passes — and racked up 156 yards — thrown behind the line of scrimmage and 13 — for 121 yards — between one and 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Last year, Bills quarterbacks made 68 of their 437 total attempts (15.5%) behind the line of scrimmage. When adding in the throws made between one and 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, that percentage skyrockets to 62.2%.
(The percentages for Tyrod Taylor are 16.4% and 60.7% respectively.)
Those figures indicate that for as much as Buffalo’s deep-passing game is discussed, Greg Roman — and Bills’ signal callers — rely on short passes too, the area of the field where Bush is best.
Captain obvious tells us he’s a lot more like LeSean McCoy than Karlos Williams, and while I don’t expect Bush to take any carries away from McCoy, I think he could get onto the field in “passing situations” if and when Shady needs a breather.
Despite his diminishing skills, most linebackers and even some nickel cornerbacks will not like to see Bush motion out to the slot where he’d have ample space to separate.
Early Monday morning, even before news broke that Bush would likely sign with the Bills on Monday, Sal Capaccio of WGR sent out this tweet:
Team source told me last week regarding Reggie Bush: "he fits everything we do." #Bills— Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) August 1, 2016
The Bills offense wasn’t necessarily “screen-predicated” a year ago, but there will likely be a shift to highlighting skill-position players’ yards-after-the-catch ability this season, given it’s reputation as a potent downfield attack.
Sammy Watkins, McCoy, Charles Clay, Bush and Robert Woods — to a certain degree — are dynamic with the football in their hands.
The Bills and their fans shouldn’t expect a colossal year from Bush, but if he can stay healthy -- an enormous if at this point — he’ll be, first and foremost, Buffalo’s punt returner (and maybe kick returner?) and an insignificant aspect of the ground game. A few handoffs per game at most. However, Bush can catch 30-35 passes on plays in which he’ll have space to operate after he makes the reception.