Bush Changes Dynamic of Detroit's Offense

Everything has changed — and everything has stayed the same — for Clay Matthews, who will renew acquaintances with former USC teammate Reggie Bush. Has Bush ever played better? As one coach put it: "Let me tell you, this is the Reggie Bush that everybody has been talking about when he got drafted."

In 2004, when Reggie Bush was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy finalist and helped USC win the national championship, Clay Matthews was in his redshirt season.

In 2005, when Bush won the Heisman and USC lost in the championship game, Matthews was relegated to special teams.

Things have changed in 2013, as Matthews and the Green Bay Packers host Bush and the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

"To be completely honest, this is the first time I've seen him where I feel I can actually contribute to stopping him," Matthews said.

Then again, maybe little has changed other than the venue. Just as it was eight and nine years ago on the USC practice field, Matthews will be chasing Bush at Lambeau Field.

"It was difficult, because that was when we were winning championships there, and I was the low man on the totem pole and had to play scout team," Matthews said. "He's a great player and, obviously, he gave me a fair share of ‘Welcome to college.' Maybe now it would be the other way around (smiles). No, he's a really good player, guys. He's been playing fantastic, especially coming off last week, just looking really good, so he's definitely someone we'll have to keep our eyes on."

Bush, as the second overall pick of the 2006 draft by New Orleans, has been something of a disappointment. In his five seasons with the Saints, Bush had just one season of 1,000 yards from scrimmage. In two seasons with Miami, Bush had his first 1,000-yard rushing season in 2011 (1,382 from scrimmage) and just missed in 2012 (1,278 from scrimmage).

It's early, but Bush — even while missing one game — is on pace for 1,016 rushing yards and 1,732 yards from scrimmage. He's a major reason why the Lions are 3-1 after winning four games all of last season.

"Let me tell you, this is the Reggie Bush that everybody has been talking about when he got drafted," Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "This guy here is running the ball unbelievable. His screen game, catching the ball out of the backfield has always been good. In-between the tackles, he's hitting it, he's running and making people miss and breaking tackles. He's running with an edge and balance. I've never seen him play like this. I hate that he's in our division playing like this now, but credit to him he's really a difference-maker right now."

Bush, to be sure, has changed the dynamic for the Lions. They're up to 16th in rushing attempts per game from 25th last year. Some of the balance is due to the scoreboard – the Lions are winning rather than losing. There's more to it than that, though. Bush is the perfect fit for the Lions' spread-the-field approach with his ability to sprint through holes provided by the offense's alignment alone.

"Reggie's more of a space, make-miss type guy, even though he is a lot stronger than a lot of people realize," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "He complements what we want to do offensively. He really fit the role. We've been lacking that since we lost Jahvid Best. Jahvid gave us that dimension and we didn't have it when Jahvid was lost due to the concussions."

Bush has carried 48 times for 254 yards (5.3 average) in his three games. With 254 yards on 11 receptions, Bush is second among running backs with 144.3 yards from scrimmage per game.

"He's a three-down player. You have the ability to do all three things with him, on every down," coach Mike McCarthy said. "That's a big compliment to a running back, whether it's handing him the ball and the style of runs they're able to utilize and, obviously pass protection. They have confidence in him there because they use him on third down. He's a weapon coming out of the backfield. They have designed screens for him and the underneath passes, the middle screens. He's a primary target when you break them down as far as their pass or runs and their ability to get him the ball. Any time the back if a primary focus of your offense, it says a lot about the individual."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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