When Reggie Bush joined the Miami Dolphins in 2010, he was considered a frail and fragile, gimmick-type running back. He was seen as a receiving back that could only take the ball around the edge. He could not run between the tackles and he was afraid of the contact. It was a reputation Bush was determined to shake.
During his two years in Miami, Bush did much to disprove many of these labels. He ran up the middle, looked for contact and amazed onlookers with his big-play ability, but that just wasn’t enough to convince the Dolphins to offer him a long term deal.
Instead, the dynamic offensive weapon will be heading to the NFC North to play for the Detroit Lions. He will bring to the Lions everything they lost when Javid Best was no longer able to suit up, plus much, much more. With Calvin Johnson commanding so much attention, the possibilities with Bush are endless and defensive coordinators everywhere just found it very hard to breathe.
It is a good day for the Lions, but where does that leave the Dolphins?
There is still plenty of free agent running backs the Dolphins could bring in to solidify the backfield. Guys like Ahmad Bradshaw and Steven Jackson are still available and could impact the Dolphins’ rushing attack in 2013, or the Dolphins could address the issue when the NFL draft takes place in April.
One thing the Dolphins cannot do is stand pat.
Without Bush on the roster, rushing duties fall to third year back Daniel Thomas and second year guy Lamar Miller. Thomas has been plagued by injuries and concussions since he was drafted by Miami. During his two seasons off play, Thomas has missed seven games (Bush missed one) and only averaged 3.5 yards per carry when he was on the field. Lamar Miller only carried the ball 51 times as a rookie last season, and while he averaged a more respectable 4.9 yards per, it is a very small sample size upon which to determine the future of the franchise.
Over the last couple of months, the rumors about Bush being allowed to leave in free agency had been a regular on NFL message boards. One such rumor pointed to the Dolphins faith in Miller, going as far as to call him a younger Reggie Bush. The reality is, if you put each player side by side and compare skill level and career history, it becomes clear that outside of similarities in style, these are two very different players.
Miller could grow into an impact player in the NFL, but Bush has a natural ability that makes him very special. It is why he won the Heisman Trophy in college, why he was selected number two over all and why he is a match up nightmare for every defense he faces. Imagine what Bush would have been able to accomplish with Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline and Davone Bess making it impossible for teams to stack up against him. The sky would have been the limit, and moving Bush takes away from some of the good the Dolphins did by signing Wallace.
It is a bittersweet situation, but the writing has been on the wall for months.
Watching Bush get benched in Week 10 against the Tennessee Titans for his second lost fumble of the season, it became painfully clear Bush was on the outside of head coach Joe Philbin’s vision for the team. The Dolphins failed to use him in the passing game the way they should have, and he was hardly ever allowed to put the game on his shoulders. He was allowed 20+ carries just twice last season and in those two games, Bush racked up 276 yards on the ground with two scores. Why he was not leaned on more heavily, especially with a rookie quarterback under center, is hard to say. Regardless, of the reasons, Bush is no longer a Dolphin, and the team is going to need to find a way to make up for the play making ability that left with him.