Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

08 Dec 2007

ESPN: Dunn Should be a Model for Bush

We're not yet 100 percent sure how Reggie Bush's knee injury will affect his ability to play out the year, but Bush and the Saints have both endured difficult follow-ups to their 2006 miracle season. If Bush does make the game itself, even as a spectator, there's a great career example for him on the opposing team. In this week's ESPN Monday Night Football preview, Aaron and I put forth the idea that Warrick Dunn might be the most unique member of the 10,000-yard club, and write about what backs like Bush (and their teams) can learn from what Dunn has accomplished.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 08 Dec 2007

20 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2007, 2:12pm by Tom


by Dom (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 8:44pm


I feel a bit sorry for Bush in that his excellent college performance meant people expected him to play like that from the beginning in the NFL. If he had been drafted lower he might have ender up taking more of a Tiki Barber/Brian Westbrook career path.

by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 9:34pm

The second point, dealing with receptions, seems to be a case of correlation instead of causation. I fail to see how the durability of a small running back with enough carries to get to 10K yards rushing could be improved by giving him the ball additional times in the passing game. It seems much more reasonable that smaller running backs are generally quicker and have more receiving skills than bigger backs, therefore a good small RB will also accumulate receptions.

by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Sat, 12/08/2007 - 10:01pm

I've seen a Dunn play in quite a few games and Bush play in about 5 or 6 (I'm not a big fan of college ball). I can't imagine Bush will have a career anything like Dunn's because he simply doesn't appear to be as shifty in tight spaces as Dunn. Dunn is constantly darting for the next tiny crack in the defense and he rarely seems to take hits. Bush makes quick cuts in space and he's fast, but his inside running style doesn't compare to Dunn as far as I can see.

by Paul (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 1:31am

#2 I agree that directly it doesn't make sense. However, what is very likely happening on those extra touches is often a running back getting out of bounds. Plus, and this is the more important aspect, it is probably keeping drives alive, giving the offense more opportunities to gain yards. Better offense, particularly one that a defense has to worry about the pass will allow more rushing yards.
Now this wouldn't apply to the checkdown Texans of course, and no running back gains 10K yards without an effective offensive line. The point is that if Bush wants longevity and productivity enough to eventually reach 10,000 yards, he should have a bruiser back as a complement, be effective catching the ball in the flat, and probably most important, 5 (at least 3) good blockers in front of him. I don't see Bush as the second coming of Barry Sanders.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 1:40am


"S even players in NFL history have totaled at least 10,000 career rushing and 3,800 receiving yards -- Marcus Allen, Marshall Faulk, Ricky Watters, Barber, Payton, Thomas and Dunn. Note that four of those names are on the list of five backs weighing 200 pounds or less."

Don't know exactly what that means, but it needs to be fixed.

by Costa (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 1:43am

"S" + "even" = 7

by C (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 2:30am

Re: #2

I seem to remember in one of the 370 carry columns that catches didn't count- it was just carries that seemed to hurt backs, catches didn't. The article speculated that was because hits from DB's were less damaging than hits from LB's and lineman, though I can see some merit to the idea of getting out of bounds (they did a column on 370 taking out of bounds into account for Shaun Alexander last year, but I don't recall if they broke down passes versus runs on that).

by MC2 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 3:58am


I agree. Despite his reputation as an "elusive" back, Dunn has never really danced around in the backfield the way that Bush does. In fact, Dunn has always (at least, prior to his recent decline) been pretty quick to hit the hole. He saves most of the fancy jukes and cuts until he gets to the 2nd level of the defense.

by Bobman (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 5:20am

#5, Give Edge two years and he'll be at roughly 13,000 and 3,800. Currently at 11,307 and 3,162.

Actually, his receiving stats have dropped significantly since his move to AZ, so maybe not. But his first couple seasons before the knee he was a roughly 1,600 + 600 guy.

So maybe he won't be Eight.

by Unshakable Optimist (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 10:26am

Re #2:

Perhaps the passes lead to less carries per game, limiting the general punishment that the back would normally take in each game and therefore the season as a whole. That would lead to a longer career, increasing the chance that he'll be around long enough to eventually hit 10k.

by Packer Pete (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 2:04pm

Bush's "incredible" talents are remnant from his USC days, where quite often every offensive Trojan player was dominant to the opposing defense's player. So many collegiate games are complete mismatches (Ohio State vs Akron, Youngstown State, etc) that player stats and abilities are overblown. In the pros, the gap between first and worst may be significant, but the gap between the 5th best team and the 25th best team is nearly neglible. Bush may be too much of a 'tweener; too small to pound the rock, and not enough talent surrounding him to get him in space to use his running ability. Bush's season sure takes the pressue off Houston's ownership.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 3:35pm

Reggie Bush = Kevin Faulk

by Erithtotl (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 4:11pm

So, is there a single FO statistic that shows that Bush is a good or potentially good back?

by Tom (not verified) :: Sun, 12/09/2007 - 6:58pm

His receiving dpar isn't terrible, and his rushing dpar last year was mediocre, but not god awful.

Also, the whole New Orleans offense has been bad this year, I'm almost willing to give every player a mulligan.

by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 1:00pm

7, C.
Tackles after receptions are different types of tackles. When tackling on a run, you can keep going at full speed into the place where your assignment as a defender is, and blow up the ball carrier. It’s different than tackling after a catch.
When tackling after a catch, you have to wait to see where the ball carrier goes, before the hit, especially with runningbacks who catch most balls in free space.
This is even more the case for Bush if you see his low yards per catch.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 3:43pm

In other words, in order for Reggie Bush to be successful, you have to pair him with a good feature back to take most of the carries.

Sounds like a great use for a 2nd overall draft pick.

The most damning indictment of Reggie Bush as a player in that even when his numbers aren't bad, they're worse than others. Deuce McAllister is a better running back, and (at least last year) had better numbers catching the ball out of the backfield, too.

It's not so much that Reggie Bush is a terrible, no good, very bad running back as the opportunity cost of running plays with him involved is too high - those same plays are almost always more successful run with someone else involved.

by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 4:09pm

I think the better comparison with Dunn is Leon Washington. Like Dunn, Washington is a better than expected inside runner. Only time will tell if he is as durable.

By the way, the Jets appear to be contractually obligated to run Thomas Jones on every first down. It's going to make my head explode.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/10/2007 - 6:05pm

Re #1:

True, but if he'd followed a Tiki/Westbrook career path, he wouldn't have gotten that big money #2 overall contract, saved the city of New Orleans, and gotten all the advertising money that goes along with that.

by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 12:11pm

I do not feel at all bad for Reggie Bush. Sure, there was a lot of pressure on him coming out of college. But he embraced all the media attention and accepted all the talk about him being the greatest RB prospect since Barry Sanders. If you accept all the glory you need to accept all the negative stuff when you don't live up to your own hype.

by Tom (not verified) :: Tue, 12/11/2007 - 2:12pm

Westbrook was good pretty early on, his second year he had over 900 total yards. It was just his rookie year that he didn't play much.