On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals will have to account for another offensive weapon, a shifty back who can pound it between the tackles, bounce off the edge or line up outside as a receiver.
Reggie Bush is creating as many problems for the Cardinals’ coaching staff as he will for the defense in Sunday’s home opener at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“Reggie has all the skills still that he’s always had as a receiver and a runner,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “When you have the weapons and spread the field like they do, it’s very hard to get another double-team, and you’d like to have a double-team on Reggie, but it’s not possible as a runner and a potential receiver.
“Those things are the problems you have facing their offense.”
It’ll be a pick-your-poison kind of afternoon for the Cardinals. Do they want Patrick Peterson on Johnson one-on-one while they focus on slowing Bush with an extra linebacker or defensive back? Or do they want to double-team Johnson over the top, leaving everyone else, for the most part, single-covered -- including Bush?
Last week, Bush accounted for 191 yards of total offense -- 90 rushing, 101 receiving, including a 77-yard touchdown reception. Johnson, meanwhile, finished with just 37 yards, but saw two touchdown catches ruled incomplete.
Last season, if Johnson had a game like that, the Lions were all but done for.
This season, with Bush, the Lions have options. And options mean potential mismatches for the Cardinals, whether it’s Bush on a linebacker or Bush on a safety.
“It gives us another guy to worry about,” Arizona safety Yeremiah Bell said. “He’s explosive. He’s just as explosive as Calvin. Instead of putting most of your focus on 81 … you can’t do that anymore. Everything has to be balanced.”
Of the Lions’ 77 plays last week against the Vikings, 53 saw Bush and Johnson on the field at the same time.
Of those 53, 30 were pass plays.
Who gets the extra attention will be the question on every play they share.
“You've got to pick your spots when you try to pick and choose who you key on,” defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said.
But the key to slowing Bush and Johnson isn’t a gimmick defense.
It’s pressure up front that will force Lions quarterback Stafford to make a quick decision. That, more than likely, limits Johnson as an option, which means the Cardinals can shift their attention to Bush, who’s quickly become a safety outlet for Stafford.
If Stafford has time, he can wait for Johnson to develop his route.
Whoever is left on an island simply needs to tackle.
“We got to win our one-on-one matchups,” linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “We’re going to have opportunities. Patrick’s going to have opportunities with Calvin. I’m going to have opportunities with Reggie. Other guys are going to have opportunities with Reggie.
“Just got to win our one-on-one matchup. That’s what this game boils down to.”