Reggie Bush Cut By the Lions: We Shouldn't Be Surprised
Anytime a big-name player gets cut or enters free agency, fans talk about said player being a fit for their favorite teams. They get excited. And that was no different this evening when it was announced that the Lions had cut running back Reggie Bush, who's played for Detroit since the start of the 2013 season.
But should fans really want the (kind of) former Heisman Trophy winner on their squad? And what does this move mean for the Lions?
Simply put, Reggie Bush is an overrated runner. His value is through the air, but even that side of his game took a massive hit in 2014.
Here at numberFire, we're not just about basic box score statistics. The word number is in our name, so clearly we like them, but we like advanced ones -- analytics that tell a bigger story than what the raw numbers show.
Because rushing is less efficient than passing, running backs tend to see negative Rushing NEP totals. In fact, the Net Expected Points per rush average by running backs since 2000 has been -0.03, meaning each rush is essentially losing points for an offense. This isn't to say running doesn't matter -- it does, especially if you're effective on the ground -- but when compared to passing, it's far less efficient.
Alright, back to Reggie Bush. The former Saint turned Dolphin turned Lion turned free agent has compiled 70 or more rushes in eight of his nine NFL seasons. He's reached the league-average running back Rushing NEP per tote (remember, this is -0.03) in exactly two of those seasons.
Guys, Reggie Bush kind of sucks at running the football.
What's worse is his Success Rate, which measures the percentage of rushes that contribute positively towards his NEP -- a Success Rate of 50% would mean a running back makes a positive play on half of his runs. Since 2000, the league-average running back Success Rate has been 41.45%. Reggie Bush's Success Rate over the course of his career is a measly 40.44%.
He's really not a good runner.
But he is -- supposedly, at least -- a really good receiver.
Bush makes his living through the air. He's been targeted at least 42 times in every season as a pro, averaging 71.2 targets per season.
Since the turn of the century, we've seen 425 unique seasons where a running back had at least 40 targets through the air. The Reception NEP -- expected points gained on catches only -- per target has averaged out to be 0.32. Reggie Bush's career average Reception NEP per target? 0.34. Barely above average.
Admittedly, Bush had his best receiving season from an efficiency standpoint just two years ago -- his first as a Lion -- where his 80 targets resulted in 37.38 Reception Net Expected Points. In 2014, however, Bush's rate of adding points per target dropped all the way to 0.24, which ranked 22nd out of the 32 running backs with 40 or more targets last year.
The one thing that Reggie Bush is supposed to be good at, he was bad at.
Whether that was all due to injury or not, this is still alarming. And perhaps the worst part is that teammates Joique Bell and Theo Riddick both were far more efficient in the passing game than Bush was last year, seeing 0.43 and 0.41 Reception NEP per target, respectively.
It's not shocking to see the Lions parting ways with Bush, even if money wasn't a factor.
What Happens Now?
Though Bush was ineffective last year, he still saw 76 rushes and 56 targets out of the Lions' backfield, good for a total of 132 touches. Joique Bell was the workhorse for Detroit, running the ball 223 times and snagging 53 targets of his own. That's a hefty workload, but considering Theo Riddick is the other option in the Lions' backfield -- a player who doesn't profile as a traditional back -- Bush's totes could easily move Joique's way. That is, of course, if they don't look for help in the draft.
Through the air, though, we should expect Riddick to see more work. The Lions and Matthew Stafford are no strangers to using their backs in the passing game, as the backfield finished with the third most receptions in the NFL last year. And they ranked 4th in receptions in 2013, 5th in 2012, and 11th in 2011. Riddick should be a PPR machine in fantasy leagues, as he has experience as a receiver, playing the position for two years in college at Notre Dame.
All in all, the Lions made a smart move in getting rid of Bush. He's not only been inefficient on the ground and through the air, but the team has two capable backs to replace his production. And I'd fully expect those two backs to replace it effectively.