Bradley Randle's contributions to the Vikings this week have been one part athlete, one part actor.
Randle, the diminutive running back, was called back to the Vikings practice squad Monday for one main purpose this week: be Reggie Bush.
As the Vikings prepare for Bush, the new wrinkle added into the Detroit Lions' explosive offense this year, Randle has been charged with the duty of mimicking Bush on the scout team.
"He's fast. He's quick and that's something I'm used to doing," said Randle, who checks in at 5-foot-7, 193 pounds. "He has a lot of routes out of the backfield and being out in the slot. Just catching balls and the things I can do and I know I can compare myself to."
Randle is hardly the only Viking concerned about Bush's movements this week. While Calvin Johnson remains the record-setting cornerstone of the Lions' offense, Bush brings an added element that has been missing in Detroit in recent years.
He is the slippery running back who is able to take a short pass and convert it into a long gain.
"It just makes them more dynamic than what they already were," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "Obviously with (Mikel) LeShoure last year, that was more of a power guy and they would try to run between the tackles. Reggie is very capable of doing that, but uses his speed and abilities to get out in the open space. It will be a challenge for us, just another element we have to think about and another guy and number we need to chase to around other than 81 (Calvin Johnson) that's a big-time playmaker for them. They're going to use him wisely as well. They're going to try to get him the ball as much as they can in space."
In essence, Bush can spread out a defense by trying to bring the back seven closer to the line of scrimmage. And that's just the sort of help that Johnson can use to get behind the defensive backs and break off a long gain.
Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams knows his defenders need to play, as he calls it, "top-bottom" defense to be sure Johnson stays in front of them. Bush makes it more difficult to maintain that discipline.
"Very difficult. You have another dimension where not only can Calvin Johnson beat you, but Reggie Bush can beat you underneath," Williams said. "That's the problem, but you have to pick and choose your poison. You can't defend everything. If you try and defend everything, you're not going to defend anything. That's what we have to be cognizant of – play the coverage, try to tackle well and when they check the ball down to him in the zone coverages, that we run and tackle."
Another benefit of having Bush in the backfield for the Lions is that it could take away from the aggressiveness of the defensive linemen and linebackers when trying to get to quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Lions are known for getting rid of the ball quickly, and if Bush sneaks behind an oncoming rusher and into the open field, it could become instantly problematic for the Vikings.
Greenway said the Vikings defenders need to stay aggressive. He also cautioned that Bush can't be overlooked as a running back, either.
"I think he often gets overlooked for his ability to run the football. In their run game, he has the chance to bounce a lot of those plays outside, which is what he's really good at," Greenway said. "Watching his Miami tape, he's become a better runner between the tackles. I don't think they're all the sudden going to be running the power-I, but I think they're going to be cognizant of their run touches that he's getting and trying to keep us honest. We need to make them a passing team and one-dimensional."
After five years with the New Orleans Saints, Bush spent the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. In seven NFL seasons, he has 4,162 yards rushing (4.3-yard average) and 2,730 yards receiving (7.3-yard average) and a combined 44 touchdowns.
"We brought him here to be a difference maker. Not just because he can do stuff in the passing game, from the backfield. He's a very, I don't want to call him underrated running back, but he runs all of our runs," Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.
"… As we go through, (we'll) just kind of figure out how we target him. Some games it might be more as a runner and some games more as a receiver."
That could make Williams' job even more difficult to figure out how Bush will be used with a new team and new scheme. The defensive coordinator knows what Johnson can do, but Linehan's new pawn could be problematic without any regular-season film for Williams to study.
"We can guess and try and predict what they'll do with him, but we just make sure we have to go out and read our keys and focus on what we're supposed to do," Williams said, "because if we hunt up too many snakes or too many ghosts, we won't do anything."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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