Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Week 3 wrap up

NFL football returned to New Orleans last night and the surprisingly good Saints responded by pounding on the favored Falcons.

I was watching
Reggie Bush with particular interest. Although I thought he was a great talent in college, I was concerned about him as a pro because he wasn't a between-the-tackles, three-down-running back at USC -- or even a running back at all.

Every year a few position-less "athletes" enter into the NFL. While some of them turn out to be
pretty good, none of them has had the kind of career that would justify the hype surrounding Reggie Bush.

Last night Bush didn't put up big statistics or make any breathtaking plays, but I was very impressed with the way New Orleans used him.

Bush lined up all over the field and was often sent in motion. In the first quarter he barely touched the ball but his shifty presence was key in freeing up other offensive players. A few times Bush lined up wide and ran behind the quarterback after the ball was snapped. These feigned reverses froze the defense and culminated with a real reverse to Bush, which he handed off into a double reverse and a touchdown.

When Bush did get the ball he struggled with his footing. The brand new Superdome turf is apparently very slick and the quicker players -- especially Falcons' QB Michael Vick -- couldn't make the kind of cuts they usually do.

Bush will have to play a little better to continue to get the respect opposing defenses are so far giving the rookie. But he wasn't that far off last night while dealing with adverse conditions. And his team, three weeks into the Reggie Bush experiment, has already figured out a variety of ways to maximize, in a standard NFL offense, the effectiveness of this non-traditional player.

Quick note: The NFL needs to do something about roughing the passer, which they enforce more tightly every year. The infraction is almost always flagged on third and long -- and often late in the game -- since that is when a QB is most likely to hold the ball long enough to get hit. This increases the chances the penalty will have a game-changing effect. Which isn't fair on plays where the defender's only fault is he couldn't stop his blitz the instant a pressured, off-balance QB decides to throw a pass. The penalty should by two-tiered: Five yards and no automatic first down for non-deliberate contact and the fifteen yard automatic first down deal for what used to be considered roughing the passer before the league started treating quarterbacks like kickers.

Picks -- New Orleans' pleasure was my pain as the Saints' victory knocked my picks into the red. 6-7-1 for week three and 16-13-1 for the year.

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