COMMENTARY | Reggie Bush has proven himself to be a versatile weapon that can fit into virtually any offensive scheme. He did a little bit of everything with the New Orleans Saints, but was asked to be an every-down runner once he moved to the Miami Dolphins.
Now that he is a member of the Detroit Lions, Bush will likely be asked to balance out his skills and mix what he did with New Orleans and Miami. So, where does he fit in among rushers in the NFC North?
This division has arguably the best player in all of football lined up in the backfield for the Minnesota Vikings, Matt Forte is an underrated star for the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers are finally showing a commitment to developing their own rushing prowess.
Here we will dissect and rank each starter in the NFC North, while also highlighting the best backup that the division has to offer.
Honorable Mention: Michael Bush, Chicago Bears
The structure of these rankings dictates that Michael Bush be given the honorable mention award, but the truth is that this Chicago Bears backup is better than any rusher that the Green Bay Packers have to offer. Both Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin are exciting, young talents, but neither has played in an NFL game.
Bush, meanwhile, is someone who has always quietly been able to get the job done. He spent four years with the Oakland Raiders and was rarely asked to be the starter (except when Darren McFadden was hurt,) but Bush has averaged 4.1 yards per carry over the course of his career and has scored 27 touchdowns in that time.
He is a bruising back that is not afraid to put his 6'1", 245-pound frame to good use and will fight for tough yards between the tackles. Bush is the perfect complement to Matt Forte's perimeter rushing style and gives the Bears a dynamic backfield. It would be helpful if Chicago's offensive line could block, but that does not take away from the skill Bush possesses.
4. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers
Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin are going to have a long preseason battle over the starting position in the Green Bay Packers backfield, but the truth is that both players are going to get a fair number of carries this season and a chance to truly earn the top spot on the depth chart.
For now, Lacy seems like the more "pro ready" player and the one who can have the greatest impact. His numbers at Alabama may have been slightly skewed because he was playing behind an offensive line that could start in the NFL, but Lacy still averaged 6.8 yards per carry in his three years with the Crimson Tide.
His 1,322 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns in his junior season proved that Lacy can shoulder the brunt of an offensive burden and come out stronger on the other side. If Lacy and Franklin are going to be a "thunder and lightning" type duo, then Lacy will most certainly be the thunder.
Green Bay has yearned for a consistent rushing attack for several years and Lacy has the type of talent that can stabilize the backfield.
3. Reggie Bush, Detroit Lions
Much like in the NFC North QB rankings that I recently wrote, it is the battle for spots No. 2 and No. 3 that is the toughest to call. In that battle, Jay Cutler narrowly edged out Matthew Stafford for higher billing and I believe it is the Bears player who once again squeaks out a victory.
However, there is no denying the massive upgrade that Bush brings to the Detroit Lions backfield. He has rushed for more than 2,000 yards over the past two seasons and has 15 total touchdowns in that time.
Bush is someone that Detroit can plug in at slot receiver if needed, or at H-back. He can be sent in motion or take a tough carry through the teeth of the defense. Basically, Bush is everything that the Lions hoped Jahvid Best could become.
Opposing defenses will now be forced to respect the Lions rushing attack because the offense is just as likely to rush on second down as it is to throw the ball downfield to Calvin Johnson. Having Bush in the lineup will also take some pressure off Mikel LeShoure and allow him to truly develop into the downhill runner the Lions need him to be.
2. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
So, what gives Matt Forte the edge over Reggie Bush? His age, track record and proven consistency. Forte is only 27 years old and yet already has 5,327 rushing yards in five NFL seasons.
This is a player just hitting his physical prime and he is a complete running back in every sense of the title. Forte has 2,325 career receiving yards and 35 career touchdowns. He has missed just five games in his career and has only one season with more than 260 rushing attempts.
In other words, the wear and tear on Forte's body is not that great and he has the added bonus of having Michael Bush in the backfield alongside him to handle any short-yardage carries. Forte is a home-run hitter that has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over the course of his career even while opposing defenses have been able to key in on only him for a large portion of that time.
Now, with a year of Bush and elite receiver Brandon Marshall in tow, the Bears offense can begin to define itself and allow Forte to have one of the best season of his career.
1. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
As anti-climactic as it may be, the only choice for the No. 1 spot has to be Adrian Peterson. The Minnesota Vikings running back is undoubtedly the best at his position and may be the best overall player in the game.
Peterson's stats almost seem too good to be true, In six NFL seasons he has 8,849 rushing yards and 80 total touchdowns. Only once has he failed to reach 1,000 rushing yards in a season and that was because a knee injury forced him out of the last four games of 2011 (he still had 970 rushing yards.)
Last season, coming off that gruesome ACL tear, Peterson gained 2,097 yards on the ground en route to an NFL MVP award. It was a fitting honor for a player who asserted his dominance all year.
Peterson is 28 years old and has 1,754 rushing attempts already, but after seeing how quickly he healed from the ACL tear, one has to wonder if he can be an elite running back well past the age of 30 years old.
Regardless, Peterson has a sizable lead over Forte and Bush in this race, and Lacy has a lot of work to do before even entering the discussion.
What do you think of these NFC North running back rankings? Would you have put Bush ahead of Forte? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below.
Nick Kostora lives in Michigan and has covered the Detroit Lions for 4 years. His work has appeared on CNN, the Detroit Free Press, Bleacher Report, Yahoo! and more. He is also the co-host of a Lions podcast @LionsCentralPFC
You can follow Nick on Twitter @nickkostora
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