For the past few weeks Packers fans had read about the string of fantastic practices Jarrett Bush was putting together. After his big play in the Super Bowl, and subsequent blistering start to training camp, it seemed as though Bush had turned the proverbial corner.
Then came the preseason opener against the Browns.
Bush looked, to put it charitably, less like the version of Jarrett Bush that the media had been glowing about since the beginning of training camp and more like, well, Jarrett Bush. You know, the one that Packer fans have spent the last several years being frustrated with. Bush was seen trailing his man in coverage and generally getting beat more than a few times against the Browns, a chilling return to the form that has given Packers fans headaches over the years.
Then, a funny thing happened. The Packers returned to practice and the “new” Jarrett Bush returned. The last two days have seen another set of live reports from practice telling us how Bush is excelling in coverage, even ending today’s practice with an interception, albeit from the safety position.
One, it’s well known that Bush attributes his big interception in the Super Bowl to the film work he did on the Steelers, and I don’t doubt that for a second. But I also think he’s benefiting from those types of study habits in practice. Think about how many years Bush has been working against Mike McCarthy’s offense. He’s spent the last five years watching every route combination McCarthy can throw at a defense. Not only that, but he’s gotten extremely familiar with many of the receivers on the Packers roster, including Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
And two, Bush should be playing exclusively at safety. I know the Packers like his athleticism. I know they like the fact that he can serve as a back up for both the cornerback and safety position, all while being their punt coverage ace as an outside gunner.
But the fact remains that after 5 years he has still not developed the skills required to play man coverage in the NFL. He just doesn’t play the ball well in the air, even when he locates it well. But his athleticism and football IQ would serve the team well at safety, where he would be allowed to face the quarterback for the majority of the time. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers already utilizes Bush rushing the passer in some of his pressure packages, where he can use Bush’s speed off the edge as a nice change-up every once in awhile.
The Packers would do themselves a favor if they stopped being fooled by Bush’s amazing practice performances and faced the reality that they have a very talented backup safety on their roster, one who would serve the team well by getting as many reps at that position as possible between now and the opening of the regular season.