Will Bush's injury impact the Saints' game plan?
The Reggie Bush injury in New Orleans could have some effects on the way the Saints game plan under Sean Payton and in their play calling on Sundays. The RB is out for an expected 4-6 weeks according to reports with a fractured fibula. Let’s examine what type of impact this could have on the 2-0 Saints.
Special Teams: Stands out from my perspective because of field position. Good punt returners are hard to come by in this league, and players like Bush—who have dynamic lateral ability—are a plus for any special teams unit. With a QB like Drew Brees, starting on the plus side of the field (across the 50) is big for how the Saints will use personnel and attack from an offensive perspective. Offenses will get impatient when they have to drive the length of the field—but losing Bush could force the Saints to engineer longer drives without the benefit of great field position due to his punt return skills.
ICONTough to replace the dynamic ability of Bush in the Saints' offense.
The screen game: We saw it on Monday night in the win over the Niners. Payton will put together a game plan that has multiple screens out of various personnel. Bush is a big part of that—and it does allow some creativity on Payton’s part. Does that stop with Bush out? No, but it will force the Saints to use the TE more, the WR smoke screen and incorporate Pierre Thomas as a regular in all of their screen packages. With a play caller like Payton, the Saints won’t stop running this effective part of their offense, but we will see them have to use different ways to attack teams that pressure and get a good push up the field from their defensive front.
Edge runs: Bush isn’t the downhill back that excels in the power game. That is Thomas in New Orleans. However, the ability to run the stretch, the outside zone and the toss play are part of his game. It is too easy to say that Thomas can take over this roll—because he has such a different running style than Bush. Look for more of what we saw last night, as the Saints can produce in their 2-back sets out of their Pro personnel (2 WR, 1 TE, 2 RB).
Creative sets: The Saints will spread the field. Posse (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) and Jet (4 WR, 1 RB) personnel are big when the Saints want to use their stack and bunch looks—and Bush is ideal for this type of play calling. And, the Saints do align in empty sets to give Brees multiple options in the underneath passing game. With Bush, you get the HB angle, the dodge route (HB option route), the rail route (RB up the seam) and the basic HB swing that can turn into an explosive player due to Bush’s ability to make defenders miss in the open field. How do the Saints manage these situations?
The bottom line: There is an aspect lost with Bush out of the lineup. No other way to spin that, but that doesn’t mean the Saints will be less productive as an offense. Game plans don’t necessarily change, but they are altered in the way you use personnel and attack defenses when you have an injury to a key player.
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