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Bush still has a lot to prove

By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Tuesday, May 26th, 2009 at 9:08 am in Oakland Raiders.

Note: Attending a funeral service today . . . no Raiders chat. Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend.


We’re in to the real dead period of the offseason, with no OTAs scheduled for this week and little in the way of speculation other than the status of defensive end Derrick Burgess and rumors regarding a trade.

Michael Bush was the subject of trade rumors himself this offseason, most of which never made much sense from the Raiders perspective because he’s an upper-tier talent playing for fourth-round money coming off a spectacular season finale.

Make no mistake, teams looked at the Raiders well-stocked running back position and came calling. There’s Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, Louis Rankin and now Gary Russell (who can also play fullback) on hand, which would make another team wonder if they could possibly pry Bush away from Oakland.

Hard to imagine anyone would give up enough to make it worthwhile before the Raiders get a chance to really see what they’ve got.

And yes, being the sugar-coating Raider-hater that I am (I got told in the same chat last week I sugar-coated the Raiders problems and also was told I am a hater), I’m still waiting to see if Bush is all that.

For two quarters, Bush may have been the most spectacular running back in the NFL.

In Week 2 against Kansas City, Bush had 77 yards on 11 carries and had a 32-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to put away the Chiefs. In Week 17 against Tampa Bay, Bush had 129 yards on 13 carries and a 67-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to spark a come-from-behind 31-24 win over the Bucs.

In those two quarters, Bush carried 24 times for 206 yards and scored twice on breakaway runs, averaging 8.6 yards per carry. He was the dominant force in two of the Raiders five wins.

If you want to anoint Bush as the second-coming of Jim Brown, play those quarters over and over and stop reading here.

Because other than those two quarters, when the Raiders were cut-blocking the opposition to ribbons with Bush and his 245-plus pounds breaking into the second-level untouched, he was ordinary. Even less than ordinary.

Minus the fourth quarters against the Chiefs and Bucs, Bush carried 71 times for 215 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 2.8 yards per carry.

Remove the two breakaway runs, both of which Bush may well have recorded in a flag football game, and his season yards per carry drops from 4.4 to 3.5.

Bush’s most impressive moment in the Bucs game didn’t come in the fourth quarter. It came early in the second quarter on a 4-yard run for the game’s first touchdown. On the play, Bush was met at the 2-line but drove into the end zone for the score _ his only touchdown of the season other than the long fourth-quarter strikes.

It’s the kind of play you expect out of a 245-pound back. With Bush’s strength and power, you expect him to destroy smaller players once he gets into the secondary. On the short run, he also took on players bigger than himself and drove them backward.

That was something the Raiders wanted from Bush last year, hoping he could take over short-yardage duties and get key first downs. There was a full-contact goal line drill during a night practice at training camp last year where the Raiders lined up Bush and ran him directly into the middle from the 1-yard line.

He was met by Kirk Morrison in a ferocious collision and didn’t appear to get in. The past few years, most everyone has managed to bag rushing touchdowns against the Oakland defense.

Yet after practice, coach Lane Kiffin went on and on about how important it was that Bush had proven he could produce in short-yardage. If Bush did score on the play, it was by an eyelash, and hardly the sort of emphatic statement Kiffin claimed at the time.

That’s the beauty of training camp, you can call a play a success even when it’s not as long as you’re the head coach.

As the season went on, Bush never became the back the Raiders went to on short-yardage. His use was limited even though Fargas had his usual assortment of dings and dents and McFadden had turf toe on both feet.

Bush openly balked when asked to play fullback in an emergency when both Oren O’Neal and Justin Griffith were lost for the season with knee injuries. It could have provided some single-back sets as well as pass receiving opportunities, and Bush happens to be a marvelous receiver.

It’s worth noting that on a couple of occasions, Bush appeared to line up in a fullback position only to shift out of it during the recent OTA. Maybe he is being more receptive to simply getting on the field _ the first step to staying on the field.

During the offseason non-contact workouts open to the media, Bush looks as swift and fearsome as ever breaking into the secondary _ just like he did in the fourth quarters against the Chiefs and Bucs.

But it’s not always that easy, and Bush’s next step is to prove he can be the back who can gain 3 yards on third-and-2 or get 2 yards on third-and-1.

Conventional wisdom has it that at some point this season, whether because of injury or simply a changing of the guard, Fargas will begin to be phased out in favor of Bush. Bush would then join McFadden in a two-back system, with both players being threats as pass receivers as well as runners.

Fargas, ever the team player, would recede into the background without complaint and be ready and waiting when someone got hurt.

Fargas is not as big as Bush, can’t catch the ball nearly as well and doesn’t have as natural a running style. Bush, on the other hand, hasn’t run with the same abandon as Fargas until he’s faced with someone smaller, although the short touchdown run against the Bucs was promising.

With Fargas around and should Lorenzo Neal still have enough left to make the team and be a contributor, Bush is surrounded by professionalism (not to mention a powerful lead blocker).

Whether Bush is truly an exceptional back or simply an intriguing talent who keeps you interested with a big quarter here and there will be answered starting in late July.

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  • CJ Legend 34

    Way to represnt Raider O!!!!

    There are no beaches or large lakes that I love but I am with you OH will always be on my mind. The Columbus area is a great place to raise a family or have a good time partying. It is not to big not to small. It is really a comfortable place to live.

  • RaiderRockstar

    When you draft a safety at #7 overall…you shouldn’t be drafting for the same position three yrs later with a 1st day draft pick. It suggests the original 1st round pick was a bust and forces the team to neglect other positions to fill a position that should have been taken care of in the 1st place.

    ***

    does that mean Nnamdi is a bust because we drafted Fabian Washington, Stanford Routt & John Bowie? Huff played some corner in college too … so did Branch

    and why did Nnamdi balk when Huff was benched?

    how many safeties have had success with Rob Ryan as DC? none. case closed.

  • CJ Legend 34

    You know I hate to admit this man but sometimes I wonder if it is our defensive schemes that the safties can’t get. Honestly no one has been successful at since Rod Woodson but he had years of experience before we got him.

    Oud DBs struggle in our system. I have to come clean man. I could not stand Fabian Washington but he looks better with the Ravens than he ever did with us. If I recall he made a couple of interceptions last year.

  • http://www.actionext.com/playlist_57486.html La Milicia Negra

    Heya Barca!!

    biggest battle in sports…. piiiuuew, man i just got in and the game starts in 5 min…

  • CJ Legend 34

    Come on RaiderRckstar lets have some fun, take a stand for your dude Huff!

    Is this Huff’s year?

    How many interceptions?

  • http://atm Raider O

    Did you guys hear Norv trying to get credit for the Nnamdi pick?!

  • SnB Defense

    CJ Legend 34 Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:30 am
    No Huff can’t be on the trading block because according to Jerry, Huff is not worth analyzing because Bush is on the trading block.

    LOL!!!! LOL!!!!!
    =======================================================
    HA, HA….Fargas is another guy that I liked. But the guy can’t stay healthy and then when he does play he isn’t the difference maker they need on the field.

    And that’s the problem. Fargas doesn’t change the game. DMAC and Bush are capable of owning the game…not having a serviceable game…but owning the game…DMAC and Bush are guys that opponents have to game plan for.

    Fargas? He’s a decent running back with a good attitude. He runs hard but again, doesn’t have the ability to dominate the game.

    Look at his stats last year. He started all but 3 games. He had a good gm against Denver and whole bunch of “nice” games.

    You want to help Russell and passing game. Get a running game that can dominate games…not just have a serviceable effort.

  • CJ Legend 34

    Norv is a terrible coach that is all he should be taking credit for.

  • CantstandtheHaters

    CJ Legend 34 Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I live in Columbus Ohio and I watched Mitchell blow some guys up man. I was really impressed with him when they played OSU. He was one of the best defensive players on the field that day. What I really love was him on a safety blitz. He blew OSUs QB up!!!!! He could not even scramble Mitchell came so fast. Now I don’t now about taking him in the second round like they did but this kid could surprise some people.

    I like the guys personality as well he seems to be grounded in family values and is a gym rat. The guy works hard and man can this dude hit!!

    —-

    im with you, and the many peeps on this board who believed MM could be a fourth rounder whereas a KiperDiaper didnt even had him on his radar at all for the draft weekend lol.

    but yes, this guy can step right in from a physical pov. hes already bigger/stronger then Huff who is 4 years removed from being a student-athlete.on top of that MM seems smart enough too to get on the field early, so.

    but even JLH grew into a legit, confidant NFL-player in a professional environment. in one year. Huff is a big dissappointment in that department. he could not transform his body from school and really looks like another Stu who simply didnt have the physicality, the nasty streak needed for the job in the middle of a defense…

    at least M Huff is a proven commodity vs TEs though, gotto give him that. he even had Safety vs the Cards at one time, and filled the running lanes successfully too although inconsistantly, but he got some skills…so hopefully our first and second down-defenses improve and the coaches find a place for him with more third and longs in nickel and dimes. he still could be gone next year after all if he doesnt make a difference.

    later guys.

  • http://www.actionext.com/playlist_57486.html La Milicia Negra

    Maaan i hope malcolm glazers boys gets beat tonight =)

  • RaiderRockstar

    Nnamdi spent the first two years as a 2nd string or nickel if you will and huff has been on the field the entire time with the exception of Cable pulling the plug….

    ***

    you’re right. Nnamdi started 24 games in his first 3 years. Huff started 39.

    Nnamdi has a bigger build than Huff, yet Huff is the one playing strong safety down in the box? He’s a free safety fellas! and he’s only had a few starts there last season under a Rob Ryan defense after playing his first 2 years out of position.

    How were Gallery’s first 3 years in the league before he got a real coach (Cable) and got put in the right position (LG)? atrocious!

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    CJ Legend 34 Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:37 am
    You know I hate to admit this man but sometimes I wonder if it is our defensive schemes that the safties can’t get. Honestly no one has been successful at since Rod Woodson but he had years of experience before we got him.

    Oud DBs struggle in our system. I have to come clean man. I could not stand Fabian Washington but he looks better with the Ravens than he ever did with us. If I recall he made a couple of interceptions last year.

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Its called Cover Zero because thats how many pro bowl players you get out of it.

  • http://atm Raider O

    I feel blessed that there are a few places I can call home.
    SD, Columbus, and Amman Jordan.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Is this Huff’s year?

    How many interceptions?

    ***

    16 starts at FS and I say Huff has 6 or 7 INT’s and 12 or 13 passes defensed

    due to Cable’s love affair with Hiram Eugene I think he’ll start over Huff again, no matter who plays better in OTA’s, training camp or preseason

    Eugene has started 15 games the past 2 seasons. During that time he has 3 passes defensed. no INT’s. no FF’s. no FR’s. no sacks. that’s what you call a depth player

  • http://atm Raider O

    BSJ,

    LMFAO

  • OAKlifer

    you’re right. Nnamdi started 24 games in his first 3 years. Huff started 39.
    *****************************

    Not much difference just sayin that huff has had more “game time” to devolope in the first 3 years than Nnamdi did….how that transalates i’m not sure but hes been on the field!! But I’m a Fan of our new D coord and hopefully huff can blossom M&M was the pick regardless who we had back there its not like we field Bob Sanders or Ed Reed…..We needed Depth and went with one of the most explosive safties in the draft i can dig that!!

  • http://atm Raider O

    RR,

    What!!!

    No, No, No!!

    It’s Branch’s year at FS with Huff as Backup, and MM at Strong.

  • SnB Defense

    Rockstar,

    Nnamdi was originally the backup to Buchanon and Woodson. When Buchanon was sent packing…they moved Asomugha to starter. The Raiders drafted Washington and Routt because Woodson departed and the jury was still out on Asomugha. Bowie….I still don’t know why they drafted that guy. Regardless, they did need a nickel back too. A 2nd round pick on a starting nickel back is okay.

    But with Huff…there is no “Nickel Back” position to fall back on. Huff was benched by a coach that doesn’t like him. It doesn’t matter what Nnamdi thinks of Huff….it only matters what Cable thinks of him.

    Huff is behind Mitchell, Branch and Eugene for a chance to play either FS or SS. Huff was put on the trading block…Asomugha was never put on the trading block…

    Again, Rockstar, I think Huff is getting a bad deal…but things don’t look to good for him right now.

  • OAKlifer

    Cover Zero I love it!!!! Is that Slob Ryans Patented Defensive Scheme!!!LMFAO!!!!!

  • RaiderRockstar

    I like Tyvon Branch & Mike Mitchell. I also like Michael Huff.

    I want the best players on the field no matter what.

    thats what OTA’s, training camp and preseason are for.

    If Branch & Mitchell are the best? start them. same with Eugene.

    With Cable’s track record as a talent evaluator I don’t trust that Hiram Eugene is starter quality. Cornell Green either

    I think Huff is scheduled to make less than 1 million this year, but over 5 million next year. If John Marshall has Huff for a year (starter or not) and doesn’t think he’s a quality player we can dump him next year and save some money. might also be an uncapped year …

  • SnB Defense

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:52 am
    Is this Huff’s year?

    How many interceptions?

    ***

    16 starts at FS and I say Huff has 6 or 7 INT’s and 12 or 13 passes defensed

    due to Cable’s love affair with Hiram Eugene I think he’ll start over Huff again, no matter who plays better in OTA’s, training camp or preseason

    Eugene has started 15 games the past 2 seasons. During that time he has 3 passes defensed. no INT’s. no FF’s. no FR’s. no sacks. that’s what you call a depth player
    =======================================================
    Rockstar,

    I agree with this post. But that Cable love affair is a pretty strong force to fight. If not for injury, he would have gone down with the ship staying with Harris and Fargas.

  • OAKlifer

    he would have gone down with the ship staying with Harris and Fargas.
    *************************
    We all know injury or not Harris was a goner…..Cable may be in love but not stupid

  • RaiderRockstar

    I think Huff is getting a bad deal…but things don’t look to good for him right now.

    ***

    If Cable dumps Huff and takes a huge cap hit to keep a guy like Darrick Brown, Keith Davis, Jerome Boyd or even Hiram Eugene on the roster we’ll know how far he’s going to take this team … to another 4 or 5 win season

    thats terrible decision making

  • OAKlifer

    wait stupid not in love….wait fat,……wait talent evaluator….mmmmm…nevermind

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    Huff won’t have six interceptions in his whole career.

  • SnB Defense

    OAKlifer Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 12:00 pm
    he would have gone down with the ship staying with Harris and Fargas.
    *************************
    We all know injury or not Harris was a goner…..Cable may be in love but not stupid
    =======================================================
    True…True…I just remember that Miami game where Cable benched Harris for the 2nd half and praised Henderson. Then the next day does a 180 degree turnaround and talks about something he saw on film and then proceeded to ride out with Harris for another 3 games….Finally that debacle in San Diego was the last straw.

    Fargas was the starter going into the Tampa game. Had Fargas not been hurt…Bush would have seen limited time and the Raiders probably lose that game.

  • http://atm Raider O

    Later Nation.

  • SnB Defense

    Rockstar,

    Keith Davis plays pretty good special teams and is a veteran. Huff is going to be in a situation where I think he’s going to have to outplay Davis on special teams.

    Cable loves “Hustle” guys…or at least his perception of hustle guys. Huff is in the same situation as Robert Thomas. He’s going to have to become a special teams guy…otherwise, there is a chance he could be cut.

    Again, I hope Huff flourishes with Marshall. Huff was a monster at Texas. I think the Raiders ruined him to a certain extent. But Cable sure loves Eugene!

  • SnB Defense

    The Raiders have drafted 11 Defensive Backs since 2003…9 of them in the 4th round or higher….

  • RaiderRockstar

    Huff won’t have six interceptions in his whole career.

    ***

    they said the same thing about Nnamdi …

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    What’s with all this boring Raiders talk? Did’t you get the memo…only NBA and political talk in here from the middle of May through June…

    sheeesh

    Huff isn’t worth taking the time to type one paragraph on him!

  • RaiderRockstar

    The Raiders have drafted 11 Defensive Backs since 2003…9 of them in the 4th round or higher….

    ***

    no wonder we have a good pass defense and a terrible run defense every year! priorities

  • SnB Defense

    Dakota,

    Who cares about politics? Its depressing, there is no answer and its hardly a diversion from work.

  • RaiderRockstar

    Huff is in the same situation as Robert Thomas. He’s going to have to become a special teams guy…otherwise, there is a chance he could be cut.

    ***

    Thomas was competing with R. Brown, Alston and Williams.

    Huff is competing with Eugene, D. Brown and Davis

    Ricky Brown won the job. Alston & Williams were good on ST. once Brown went down with a groin injury, Robert Thomas was resigned and got hurt in his first game back. injury settlement. in comes Marquis Cooper, etc. Robert Thomas was a 1st rounder like Huff, but Thomas also washed out with a few teams before he signed with us. some similarities, but a way different situation. none of those LB’s were Cable favorites. Sam Williams is on AD scholarship and he didn’t start

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    SnB,

    As depressing as politics are I find them downright uplifting compared to thinking about the current state of my Raiders…

  • 4evaRaider

    O-U-C-H

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 12:16 pm
    Huff won’t have six interceptions in his whole career.

    ***

    they said the same thing about Nnamdi …

    :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Nnamdi’s progress:
    Draft day: WHO? WTF!
    First season: WHO?
    Second season: Looks OK, nice size.
    Third season: Skills!
    Fourth season: Da man! thanks Al!

    Huff went from…
    Draft day: Whew! He’s not Leinert.
    First season: Weak for a SS, but better than Gibson.
    Second season: TEs are covered but can’t make plays.
    Third season: FS = Schweigert results

  • RaiderRockstar

    BSJ,

    how many safeties have had success with Rob Ryan as DC?

    Huff wasn’t the only safety during Ryan’s 5 year tenure

    If Branch & Mitchell played safety for Ryan the past 3 years they would have the same or similar results

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    Morrison should run for office…he has the long answer that tells you nothing down pat, lol.

    Good for you KM!

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 12:50 pm
    BSJ,

    how many safeties have had success with Rob Ryan as DC?

    Huff wasn’t the only safety during Ryan’s 5 year tenure

    If Branch & Mitchell played safety for Ryan the past 3 years they would have the same or similar results

    ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

    Preaching to the proverbial choir here, RRS. I stated above that the Cover Zero scheme is death to safeties. I hope you are correct that Ryan was the root of it…

  • SnB Defense

    MR, Dakota,

    The reason I don’t discuss politics is because its largely irrelevant. All these so-called smart people “all parties” and look at the condition of the country….Foreign governments behaving like children in a playground….

    Give me football any day. It helps get through the work day….baseball and basketball too.

    Politics…I could care less because there is little I can do about it and its not really that much fun to talk about.

    The Raiders are at least entertaining to talk about. I much rather talk about the possible potential of DMAC and Bush…than debate endlessly on North Korea or central government that hasn’t accomplished anything significant since the Interstate Highway System back in the 50′s

    So, will the Raider defense actually be aggressive this year?

  • http://www.blogcdn.com/www.fanhouse.com/media/2008/04/desmond-howard-425-sm.jpg Bo Schembechler Jackson

    LOL MR’s posts got deleted…

  • http://media-2.web.britannica.com/eb-media/63/60563-004-52A399D4.jpg Dakota

    New post up you dorks

  • CJ Legend 34

    RaiderRockstar Says:
    May 27th, 2009 at 11:52 am
    Is this Huff’s year?

    How many interceptions?

    ***

    16 starts at FS and I say Huff has 6 or 7 INT’s and 12 or 13 passes defensed

    due to Cable’s love affair with Hiram Eugene I think he’ll start over Huff again, no matter who plays better in OTA’s, training camp or preseason

    Eugene has started 15 games the past 2 seasons. During that time he has 3 passes defensed. no INT’s. no FF’s. no FR’s. no sacks. that’s what you call a depth player

    —————————————————–
    6 or 7 wow RR!!!!

    I hope you are right man. I would just like to see the guy get at least 3-4 and some big hits.

  • owenwarland

    My condolences, Jerry. Funerals are never pleasant. I have to go to one tomorrow.

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  • Lowdown_in_Beijing

    In 1996 the Raiders had a 240lb RB with great speed and strength.
    He was 3rd on the depth chart behind Harvey Williams and Nap Kaufman, this RB was the one-eyed wonder Joe Aska.

    Aska started a game against the Chefs and tore them up for more than 200yards. Caveat in all this was Aska had optical depth perception problems due to being blind in one eye.

    Aska’s game against the Chefs stood out in my mind for years. I have pined for another player of his size and speed but with TWO good yes; and we now have that player in Bush.

    Bush will be for the Raiders what Jerome Bettis was for Pitsburgh.

    Bush will run thru and past the competition…Russel doesn’t need to worry about Garcia, but McFadden best worry about Bush.

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    New Raider Board, check it out: http://www.pirateguy.net