Saints' Bush hasn't made a fool of Texans yet
Posted: Friday December 7, 2007 12:21PM; Updated: Friday December 7, 2007 12:21PM
Maybe the Texans were right after all.
The Texans were laughed at, mocked and ridiculed a couple Aprils ago, when they bypassed gifted Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush to draft workmanlike defensive end Mario Williams with the first pick in the draft. Nothing against Williams, but this was the Trail Blazers taking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan.
Bush was a can't-miss talent, a once-in-a-lifetime player. He was going to revolutionize the running back position.
Almost two full years in, the Saints are still waiting.
While Williams closes in on his first Pro Bowl season in Houston -- with 8½ sacks, he trails only Jared Allen of the Chiefs among AFC defensive ends -- Bush sputters along in New Orleans, looking less and less every week like a once-in-a-lifetime player.
More like the second coming of Larry Centers.
The Saints, who thought they lucked into a future Hall of Famer, are now trying to figure out how Bush became so ordinary and what to do with a guy who's essentially a high-priced role player on a 5-7 team.
"I think that everyone expects him to go out and just be Superman all the time and that is not the case, especially in this league," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "Reggie is a young back who is still learning how to play this game, learning how to be a professional."
Bush turned in a few electrifying plays last year, a few glimpses of greatness, but he's regressed this year; and that aura of greatness has faded a little more each week.
With four games left, Bush doesn't have a run longer than 22 yards. Trent Green, Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, Ben Roethlisberger, Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell all have longer runs than Bush this year. And they're quarterbacks! Bush's 3.7 average is 37th out of 47 backs with 75 carries or more.
OK, but Bush is electrifying catching the ball out of the backfield, right? Wrong.
Despite 73 receptions, he doesn't have a catch longer than 25 yards. He's seventh in the NFL in catches but 77th in receiving yards.
Incredibly, the Texans' Williams actually owns a longer play this year than Bush -- his 38-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown is longer than any run, catch or return that Bush has managed.
So what's the problem?
Because of his physical limitations, Bush will never be an every-down back. The Saints concede this. "It's unfair to have those expectations," Brees said.
And he's such a poor blocker that teams recognize when he's running a pattern, he's probably going to get the ball, and they can adjust accordingly. Hence a 5.7 per-catch average, lowest by a back among the top 12 in catches in 63 years -- since Bob Davis of the Boston Yanks averaged 5.1 yards per reception in 1944.
"We try to give him enough opportunities where he's out in a route and he's not in protection," coach Sean Payton acknowledged.
No doubt Bush misses running mate Deuce McAllister, whose season ended after three weeks with a knee injury. But even before that, Bush was averaging 2.8 yards per carry and 4.4 yards per catch.