I know I’m going to be in the minority here. When you have the best wide receiver in football on your team, the guy that holds the single season receiving yards record, saying he’s second fiddle to a teammate with a salary 1/4 of his is going to be controversial. I know this going in. And I’m saying it anyway. Reggie Bush is a better, more dangerous offensive weapon than Calvin Johnson, and here’s why.
1. Reggie Won’t Be Jammed at the Line of Scrimmage
Here is Calvin Johnson lining up at WR, getting jammed at the line of scrimmage, and an interception occurring because of it.
Calvin Johnson may be physically gifted and the best WR in football, but the rules say that defenders are allowed to hit him to knock him off his rhythm within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. When Reggie Bush comes out of the backfield, he gets a free release into his pass pattern. That’s a big advantage.
2. It’s Easier to Get Reggie the Ball
The easiest way to get Calvin Johnson the ball is on something like a quick slant, which again, lets the defender jam him at the line of scrimmage. The easiest way to get Reggie the ball is to turn around and hand it to him. While CJ tends to work the intermediate and deep areas of the field, Reggie feasts on the space underneath the coverage where he can catch the ball (or have it handed to him) and then make guys miss. If getting the ball close to the line of scrimmage put a limit on the big play ability of Reggie, then you could argue you’d rather get Calvin the ball down the field. However, Reggie Bush has made it clear that just because you get the ball in close doesn’t mean you have to stay there.
On the season, Calvin Johnson has produced 1.94 yards per route run and 8.0 yards per target. In his record-breaking 2012 season, he produced 2.55 yards per route run and 9.87 yards per target. So far this year, Reggie Bush is producing 3.44 yards per route run and 11.93 yards per target. I’d say he’s putting up big numbers.
3. Reggie Bush is a Bigger Matchup Problem
The best matchup you’re likely to get on Calvin Johnson is a cornerback that’s a few inches shorter and slightly slower. Meanwhile, the Lions have regularly gotten Reggie matched up on linebackers.
Reggie Bush holds a huge speed and agility advantage over the vast majority of linebackers (and safeties) in football. Even before he gets the ball, he can’t be covered. And if he has it in his hands, well, good luck catching him…
4. It’s Not So Easy to Double Cover a Running Back
Calvin Johnson sees double coverage all the time. Whether it’s a cornerback and a safety over the top or a linebacker and a corner, he constantly has to beat 2 guys to get the ball in his hands. Heck, sometimes they even put 2 guys straight in front of him…
When Reggie Bush runs a pass pattern from out of the backfield, it’s not so obvious how to cover him with 2 guys. He could go left or right of the offensive line, he could work the flats or turn it back up inside with an angle route. He could attack the deep sideline with a wheel route or work the short middle with a screen pass. That variety in routes creates a lot of issues in focusing on shutting him down.
So what am I saying here? Am I saying the Lions should cut bait with Calvin Johnson? Absolutely not. Reggie Bush isn’t better than Calvin Johnson in a vacuum (he wouldn’t be able to breathe in a vacuum, duhhhh). Without CJ, the defense doesn’t have to leave safeties deep to cover over the top. Basically, the Lions would end up seeing what the vikings see…
What I’m saying is that teams are forced to change their game plan to take limit Calvin Johnson’s contributions. If Reggie Bush keeps making them pay, they may not have an answer.