Dolphins fans have been asking this question ALL season...
Miami Dolphins Talking Points: Why hasn’t Reggie Bush been used more as a receiver?
by Ben VolinA trio of Dolphins talking points to kick off your post-Christmas food coma:
1. Why didn’t the Dolphins using Reggie Bush more as a receiver?
Bush was unstoppable in the passing game in Sunday’s 24-10 win over Buffalo. First he had a 14-yard catch on third-and-4. Then he easily burned past a linebacker across the middle for a 17-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Then he had an incredible over-the-shoulder catch on a perfect fade pass from Ryan Tannehill over two Bills defenders for another 12-yard touchdown.
Using Bush as a receiver also meant getting more action for rookie Lamar Miller, who finished with 10 carries for 73 yards and impressed the coaches.
“Lamar is a very smooth back, and he’s more powerful than you’d think,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said.
Catching passes is nothing new for Bush, of course. He had 88 and 73 in his first two NFL seasons with the Saints, added 52 in just 10 games the next year and overall averaged 58.8 catches in five seasons with New Orleans before coming to Miami last year.
But the Dolphins haven’t utilized him nearly as much as a receiver. He had 43 catches last year, and only 33 this season. He’s averaging a healthy 8.2 yards per reception this year, but has seven games with zero or one catch.
Why aren’t the Dolphins using him more as a receiver?
“I don’t know,” Bush said after Sunday’s win. “You have to ask the offensive coordinator. I just make the plays when I get them.”
Or, for that matter, why didn’t they use Miller more often earlier this season? He’s been inactive three times, and got all of four carries between weeks 5-13 before finally seeing some action the last few weeks.
Sherman was asked about his usage of both players on Monday. As for Bush, he said, “I don’t believe he ran any more routes than he normally does.” But in terms of finding creative ways to use Bush and Miller, Sherman said he was a bit limited in that regard early in the season as they taught their new offensive system to the players.
“You would have liked to do some things earlier but maybe we weren’t quite ready for that step,” Sherman said. “You can understand and see talent that guys have, but there is a certain process you have to go through from a learning standpoint and a teaching standpoint. There is no question that Reggie Bush is a talented young man, Lamar Miller is a talented young man, but as you go through the journey of a season and you put more and more on their plate and they are able to handle it, you can end up doing more with them.”
“As we go into this (final) game and next season, we have a better feel and understanding of where we are at.”
Even Bush, Sherman said, needed to first learn how to play tailback in their system before they felt comfortable using him as a slot receiver.
“Reggie is our featured tailback, and that in itself takes a lot of reps, a lot of teaching,” Sherman said. “He has been a part of our passing game. A lot of times, he’s made some big plays for us on third down, but I don’t feel like we did any more with him than we’ve done in the past.”
The Dolphins hit a lull in the middle of the season, with just one offensive touchdown in 10 quarters against Indianapolis, Tennessee and Buffalo. Had they won any of those games, they would still be alive for the playoffs this week. And perhaps using Bush and Miller more during that stretch would have helped.
2. Dolphins may have found an intriguing option in Armon Binns.
The Dolphins’ waiver-wire claim of Binns, a former Bengals receiver, two weeks ago barely registered on the national radar, but the Dolphins may have found themselves an intriguing piece.
It took 11-year veteran Jabar Gaffney four weeks to get on the field after he was signed earlier this season, but Binns was on the field just six days after being claimed. And last week, he made three catches for 27 yards, two of which were third-down conversions.
Binns went undrafted out of the University of Cincinnati in 2011, was a member of the Bengals’ practice squad that season and had 18 catches in eight games with the Bengals this season before falling out of favor with the coaching staff.
But now the Dolphins control his rights this offseason, and he could be a good depth player for their receiving corps. At 6-3 and 210 pounds, he’s also the tallest and heaviest receiver on the Dolphins’ roster, and is a mismatch in the slot.
“He’s picked up the offense well and he’s a good target in the middle of the field,” coach Joe Philbin said. “He’s got nice size and length and he caught the ball well when it came his way.”
And Binns can do more than catch.
“He made some nice blocks as well,” Sherman said. “The nice thing about when you bring in a player like that at this time of year with a limited amount of time, is not having mental mistakes, and he didn’t. He did a phenomenal job of just learning the offense and doing what he has to do to help us win. I thought he did a great job.”
3. Dimitri Patterson could alter offseason plans at cornerback.
Patterson was another waiver wire claim impressed the coaching staff last Sunday and could have a future in Miami beyond this Sunday’s game.
Claimed by the Dolphins on Tuesday after being waived by the Browns on Monday, Patterson didn’t just start on Sunday against Buffalo, but he played all 67 snaps. And Patterson, an eight-year veteran who has been with six teams, played well, finishing with four tackles and not allowing any big plays in the passing game.
“We were really impressed with his ability to pick up the scheme,” defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said.
Patterson’s relationship with the Browns soured this season during his rehab from a high ankle sprain. Coyle also said that the Dolphins have had their eye on Patterson since the offseason, but he signed a three-year, $16 million contract with Cleveland (essentially the same contract CB Richard Marshallsigned with the Dolphins this offseason).
“Back in the spring time he has a guy who we had on our radar who we liked,” Patterson said.
And Patterson’s strong play, but veteran leadership, gives the Dolphins more options at cornerback heading into next offseason. Suddenly, they have a bit more leverage in their impending contract negotiations with No. 1 cornerback Sean Smith. And if they are able to bring Smith back, a cornerback corps of Smith, Marshall, Nolan Carroll, Patterson and Jimmy Wilson would be formidable and have really good depth.
Patterson’s presence could mean the Dolphins don’t need to use a high or mid-level draft pick on a cornerback. His presence could also potentially move Marshall or Wilson to free safety, if Chris Clemons, another free agent, doesn’t return.
One factor working against Patterson, though: His contract. He has a $4.5 million salary next year, which is likely way too high for a role player. But if he’s willing to restructure his deal, Patterson could look good in a Dolphins uniform in 2013.