Detroit Lions: With Reggie Bush Gone, What’s Next?


The Detroit Lions made waves Wednesday evening, when they cut ties with Reggie Bush. His release was not a complete surprise. Bush couldn’t manage to stay healthy last season. He missed five games due to an ankle injury, and his numbers on the field (297 yards rushing, 253 receiving) didn’t justify the cap hit he was due. Cutting Bush will give the Lions an extra $1.7 million to spend in free agency, but leaves a hole that must be filled.

So what will the Lions do next? Cutting Bush creates a hole in the backfield. Joique Bell does a good job shouldering much of the load for the Lions. He managed over 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season (860 yards rushing, 322 receiving), as well as the durability and dependability to play through nagging injuries.

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But without Bush, the Lions sorely lack a “home run hitter”, an explosive runner who is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Joique Bell moves the chains, but an explosive runner (like Bush, when he’s healthy) keeps the defense honest, and opens up more opportunities for success in the passing game.

The Lions could look to make up for the loss of Bush, from within. With Bush fighting injuries much of last season, Theo Riddick received more playing time, making the most of the opportunity, with some clutch plays in important situations. Still, Riddick’s impact was felt more as a receiver, than as a traditional running back (316 yards receiving, 51 rushing).

The Lions could look to free agency for an explosive runner. Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett could be enticing, but both are getting up there in age (for running backs), 28 and 29 years old respectively. Additionally, releasing Bush was partially a cost-cutting move, so it makes little sense to hand out big bucks to a free agent running back.

The Lions did make a small wave earlier this week, when The Daily Telegraph (of Australia) reported rugby superstar Jarryd Hayne will soon announce his signing with Lions. But Hayne appears to be a runner more in the mold of Joique Bell than a Reggie Bush, and at this point he is a developmental prospect and unknown quantity.

If the Lions want to ensure themselves of adding an explosive runner to their backfield this season, they’ll have to go and get one in the draft. There are plenty of options available. Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley will be viable first round options. Tevin Coleman, Duke Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, Jay Ajayi, David Johnson, Buck Allen, and Jeremy Langford are all possibilities in the middle rounds. Each of them have their strengths and weaknesses, which I’ll profile in more detail, in future articles.

Whichever running back they choose, the Lions need an immediate impact, home run hitter, and especially now, they can’t afford to swing and miss.

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