COMMENTARY | The Detroit Lions rushing attack has been notoriously bad for seemingly forever. The remnants of Barry Sanders' reign as the NFL's running back king have long since faded away. The Lions have seen glimpses of decency in the last 13 years, with players like James Stewart, Kevin Jones and Kevin Smith all posting quality seasons, but the spark has clearly been missing.
The offseason signing of superstar Reggie Bush can be viewed as Detroit's attempt to finally legitimize its backfield. Mikel LeShoure has not proven himself capable of being a standalone running back. He ran for just 798 yards last season and failed to be a versatile option. He struggles at making defenders miss or creating separation once in the open field. In fact, his longest run of the season was for just 16 yards.
Bush is in many ways the anti-LeShoure. The former member of the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins has made an entire career out of his versatility. He can be a lethal threat catching passes, returning kicks, finding open space to work with and over the past two seasons showed an ability to handle brutal hits between the tackles.
Still, there have been two versions of Bush showcased during his NFL tenure. With the Saints he was a complementary piece. He was someone that lined up all over the place and spread the field both vertically and horizontally. Bush rarely lined up as a traditional back. In three of his five years with New Orleans, Bush actually had more receiving yards than rushing yards.
In Miami, Bush rushed for over 2,000 yards in two seasons. He was given the ball 443 times and asked to shoulder a large offensive burden. He remained healthy and proved he can be an every-down back.
The next natural question to ask is how exactly Bush will fit with Detroit. Will he see anywhere near 200 carries, or will he be asked to handle multiple responsibilities immediately?
The answer is going to likely fall somewhere in between. With punt return duties up for grabs, Bush could potentially get some reps in that spot. However, there are plenty of other guys (Kris Durham, Mike Thomas, Cody Wilson, etc...) who can compete for that role.
Detroit brought in Bush because it desperately wants to add some punch to a rushing attack that ranked just 23rd in the NFL last season. He is going to receive a heavy workload, but will also receive support from guys like LeShoure and Joique Bell. In other words, Bush does not have to go through this gauntlet alone.
LeShoure is still someone that the Lions organization thinks highly of. He simply cannot handle a majority of the carries. Similarly, Bell flashed brilliance last season, but is likely best utilized in smaller doses. Expect Bush to get a large majority of the carries while allowing the bigger LeShoure to handle some of the touches near the goal line.
It is also fair to expect Detroit to try and get Bush as involved in the passing game as possible. The air attack ranked 2nd in the NFL in yards per game last season, but Titus Young is gone and Ryan Broyles is battling an ACL injury. The Lions need weapons for quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw to and to take pressure off of Calvin Johnson.
Bush is fully capable of taking some heat off Johnson. He has 2,730 receiving yards in his career and has caught 15 touchdowns through the air.
What this all adds up to is Bush combining most of the elements that made him a success in both New Orleans and Miami. He is going to be a workhorse in the running game, but will also be counted on to occasionally line up in the slot and become a crucial pass-catching target. There is even still a chance that Bush showcases his dynamic special teams abilities.
The 28-year-old running back is at the tail end of his prime years, but could be in store for a Pro Bowl caliber season if used properly by the Lions.
Nick Kostora lives in Michigan and has covered the Detroit Lions for 4 years. His work has appeared on CNN, Bleacher Report and more.
You can follow Nick on Twitter @nickkostora
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