The signing of Reggie Bush was one of the bigger (and more unexpected) stories of the Bills’ offseason. The 31-year-old is coming off of a major knee injury, yet is still expected to be the team’s primary return man and is primed for a larger role in the offense after the release of Karlos Williams.
Perhaps that’s why The Ringer recently tabbed Bush as the team’s X-Factor in their NFL preview.
Danny Kelly writes:
The release of Karlos Williams on Saturday gives Reggie Bush a chance to carve out a big role as both LeSean McCoy’s backup and the team’s main passing-situation and third-down back. Bush’s biggest strength has always been his ability to make plays after the catch; Rex Ryan recently likened him to a Ferrari, envisioning him as an explosive run–pass option out of the backfield for quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Bush does figure to have a larger role in the offense after the release of Williams, and that played out to an extent against the Giants last week. Bush was the primary backup to LeSean McCoy, and was even targeted on a long pass by Tyrod Taylor that was ruled complete but rightfully overturned on review.
That said, he’s 31 and coming off a season-ending knee injury. Plenty of backs have thrived after hitting that age (such as the last Bills player to wear number 22), but they generally don’t rely on the speed and agility that were Bush’s trademark at USC and with the Saints early in his career. He hasn’t had much of an opportunity so far to show where he stands on the field in that regard, but odds are his bursts will be few and far between.
In addition, there are a couple other players who could step up and produce out of nowhere. Mike Gillislee seems to be relegated to the third-string role he occupied for most of last season, but even then he produced at a pretty solid rate (albeit one that relied heavily on him hitting the edge). If Bush were to miss time again this season, Gillislee would be given another chance to shine.
Another player who would see his stock rise is Walter Powell. Bush supplanted Powell as the team’s primary return man, but Powell is still seeing action as the backup punt returner and figures to join Bush as the deep man on kickoffs. If he can fit into the depth chart at wide receiver (which I think will happen), the team’s leading receiver during the preseason could contribute to the offense when the games start counting, as well.
One other name that is often overlooked is Chris Gragg. The fourth-year tight end is seemingly always on the verge of being cut, but has appeared in at least nine games in his three seasons so far. He doesn’t seem to have the same connection with Taylor that he does with EJ Manuel, who threw seven of his 12 receptions last season and targeted him seven times in the loss to Jacksonville. That said, he made waves in the first game of the preseason by blocking a punt for a safety and catching a TD pass from Manuel, which was likely enough to earn him a spot on the 53-man roster against fairly weak competition. The former seventh-round pick is far from consistent but has shown enough ability to stick around and is still young enough to expect improvement.
Bush could absolutely break some big plays for the Bills this season and earn the title of “X-Factor.” That said, his age and history point to that being unlikely, and there are plenty of others on the team who could step in and fill that role.
Jeff Hunter | www.buffalorumblings.com | August 24, 2016