Since late July, when the Dolphins pulled off the trade to get Bush from the New Orleans Saints, the talk had consistently been about Bush getting a chance to prove that he's an every-down back and not just some hybrid specialty player.
That talk was still strong before the Dolphins played the Houston Texans on Sunday in a game that nearly ended the Dolphins' long streak of home sellouts. Miami coach Tony Sparano talked about how Bush, who had 11 carries and nine receptions in the season-opening loss to the New England Patriots, would get about 20 touches a game.
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During the loss to Houston, Bush got seven (six carries and one catch), gaining a grand total of 21 yards. In two games, Bush has 17 carries for 56 yards, which is pretty much in line with his career numbers. Considering rookie Daniel Thomas(notes) had 107 yards on 18 carries in his debut Sunday, you can understand why Bush's time as the fulltime back is probably over only seconds after it started – even if Bush still wants to hang on to the dream.
"I can be that type of runner. I know I can handle the work," Bush said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Bush isn't whining about his plight, he's just firm in his belief. Can't blame a guy for that.
The problem for Bush is that his game doesn't play well between the tackles. Never has, not even in college. Bush is a weapon of mass destruction, not part of the infantry. He should be used as such.
That's why it was so disappointing to listen to Sparano talk about how the team planned to mix Bush and Thomas. The two were on the field at the same time exactly once on Sunday and Sparano explained why in very simple terms.
"That's a way to do it, it's just somebody got to block if you're doing that," Sparano said of the two-halfback notion.
Coming from the coach who brought you the Wildcat, that statement is a bit of a head-scratcher. Then again, maybe not. The Wildcat was built with more blocking in mind. It eliminated the true quarterback and gave the running back an extra blocker, which was interesting until defenses countered by bringing an extra defender into the box every time the Dolphins lined up that way.
Bush is the anti-Wildcat player. Bush needs open space more than he needs blockers. Anytime he's in the game, he has a polarizing effect on defensive players.
When Bush was in New Orleans, there were enough other weapons around him that coach Sean Payton could use him sparingly. Coupled with injuries, that's why Bush never had more than 243 touches in a season and that total was during his rookie season.
In Miami, the Dolphins need to find ways to maximize Bush even if Thomas is obviously going to be the bellcow runner. Bush is the only player on the team who can consistently demand a double team or any type of specialized coverage. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall(notes) is close, but Marshall is not so much explosive as he is powerful.
In short, Bush inspires fear. Marshall inspires concern. The rest of the Dolphins offense? Eh, not so much.
There is hope, of course. Sparano hinted that the "package" of plays the team has for Bush and Thomas (who missed a lot of camp with a hamstring injury) hasn't been expanded yet. After all, the Houston game was the first time Thomas had played.
"We didn't expand on the package a whole lot. We just weren't sure by week's end with Daniel with where he was physically going into the ball game," Sparano said.
Fair enough, this may be only the beginning of something that will become interesting. But based on what's happening now, that expansion better happen fast.
Race not relevant
I'm trying to get the tongue-and-cheek humor (or at least what I assume is supposed to be humor) from wide receiver Nate Burleson saying he wanted to be the "black Wes Welker(notes)" as the Detroit Lions offense tries to emulate the New England offense. The problem is that Welker is sort of a latter-day version of Troy Brown, who was a latter-day version of Art Monk, who was a latter-day version of Dwight Clark. For those with short memories, Brown and Monk are black and Clark is white. So you get the point: There are plenty of possession receivers in the history of the NFL. Welker happens to be having a better statistical career than Brown, but Welker doesn't have a ring yet, let alone a place in New England history as part of the team's first Super Bowl champion. Monk and Clark have plenty of rings to go around from their days in Washington and San Francisco, respectively. Just as it was stupid for ESPN to use the term "white Michael Vick(notes)" (have you ever heard of Steve Young?), the whole concept of defining by color is annoying.
1. Green Bay Packers (2-0): Kind of an ugly start against Carolina, but give Panthers QB Cam Newton some credit for that.
2. New England Patriots (2-0): Should get by without Aaron Hernandez(notes) short-term, but he and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski(notes) are truly special.
3. Detroit Lions (2-0): Yeah, I wrote it, the Lions make it to No. 3. Might be the first new thought I've had in a decade.
4. New York Jets (2-0): Hey Jason Hill(notes), what do you think of Darrelle Revis(notes) and Antonio Cromartie(notes) now?
5. Buffalo Bills (2-0): Yep, that's Buffalo and Detroit in the top five. Now, if they managed to end up in the Super Bowl …
[ Related: Darrelle Revis disappointed not to see Jason Hill ]
28. Seattle Seahawks (0-2): Dear Pete Carroll, spend less time tweeting about some stupid free ticket offer and more time getting your QB ready.
29. Minnesota Vikings (0-2): Winless and they have yet to play a division game? Oh, this could be a gnarly season in the Land of 10,000 Losses.
30. Miami Dolphins (0-2): Winless and both losses are at home? That's just disgraceful, and defensive end Jason Taylor(notes) told teammates that Sunday.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2): Outscored 89-10? That's a bad score in girls basketball. Sadly, that's where Todd Haley might be coaching next year.
32. Indianapolis Colts (0-2): Dear Peyton, if you really want to help the Colts, don't stop at stem cells. Go all the way to cloning.
[ Video: Peyton Manning goes to the extreme to heal ]
This and that
• If Aaron Hernandez can't go this week, wide receiver Chad Ochocinco figures to get a lot more action, which was part of the reason New England coach Bill Belichick got Ochocinco. Belichick wanted an insurance policy for his offense and got a motivated veteran in the process. That said, there are plenty of people around the league who will tell you that Ochocinco isn't what he once was (and those people are not just friends of Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis). Said one defensive back: "When we played the Bengals last year, we rolled all our coverages toward [Terrell Owens(notes)], not Chad … Maybe it's motivation, but I didn't see a lot that scared me with Chad anymore."
• Speaking of Hernandez, give Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith some credit for clairvoyance. Last year, after the Falcons held joint training-camp practices with New England, Smith said he expected Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski to be big-time impact players in the passing game. "They're like queens on the chessboard," Smith said. "Particularly Hernandez. The ability to move him around changes how you defend them."
• Memo to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: You made a nice move to scare some people at the college level by suspending Terrelle Pryor(notes) for the first five games of the season. However, the punishment doesn't nearly befit the crime. I realize the NFL and the NCAA have an important relationship, but it's up to the NCAA to enforce its rules or, better yet, change them to address the realities of today.
[ Related: Terrelle Pryor's suspension appealed ]
• Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young made a great point Monday night about the St. Louis Rams running "seven-on-eight" drills in the red zone until players get comfortable with each other. The suggestion came after watching the painful work of the Rams offense in the red zone during the loss to the New York Giants. St. Louis squandered a really good opportunity in that game.
• Received a cool email from reader John Butler, who noted that former Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Jack Butler (John's dad) might be deserving of consideration as the best ballhawk in NFL history. The younger Butler noted that Jack, who is up for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year as a seniors nominee, had 52 interceptions in 103 career games. Throw in another 10 fumble recoveries and that's 62 turnovers. By comparison, Reed has 67 turnovers (56 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries) in 130 games. Fair points to be made for Butler, who played for the Steelers in the 1950s. I won't bore readers with a dissertation on the differences between the game then and now, but it's substantial enough to counter the raw numbers. Still, it's always great to learn about a player from back in the day. Good luck to Butler and his family through the election process.
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