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Packers' Defense Must Watch For Bush


With a multi-talented running back like Reggie Bush, the New Orleans Saints are still figuring out where to line up their prized rookie to take full advantage of his remarkable speed, elusiveness and talent.

The answer seems to be everywhere, and the Packers will have to keep an eye on Bush every time he strolls out of the huddle or off the sideline on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

"We'll hand it off to him, we'll split him out, we'll do whatever we can to get him the ball," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said. "He'll return punts as well. Obviously he's a playmaker, and the more he can touch it the more chances there are of big plays."

In New Orleans' 19-14 win over Cleveland last week, Bush had 14 carries, eight receptions and three punt returns for 141 total yards. He didn't score a touchdown and didn't have any huge plays (his longest run was 18 yards and longest reception was 14), but it may be only a matter of time before he breaks a few.

"He's a great athlete, like the Marshall Faulk of our time," said safety Marquand Manuel, referring to the Rams' ultra-weapon who led them to two Super Bowl appearances in a three-year span from 1999-2001. "You just have to prepare for him and be ready for him game-plan wise."

One thing that makes Bush so dangerous with the ball in his hands is his ability to change directions almost instantaneously. In winning the Heisman Trophy last year at USC, Bush at times literally ran circles around defenses trying to corral him.

When he's taking handoffs, the burden is on the defensive front seven to stay disciplined and not over-pursue the play, similar to when facing a passer known to scramble his way out of trouble.

"If you have a quarterback with that type of ability, like (Michael) Vick, it can change your rushes and things like that," defensive end Aaron Kampman said. "With a tailback, you're just more aware of him being of a slasher cutback type of guy. You're just more aware that at any time he can reverse field and pick up positive yards."

No one on the Packers knows that better than rookie safety Tyrone Culver, who made several highlight reels chasing Bush during his 513-all-purpose-yard performance against Fresno St. last year.

Culver said there needs to be more than one defender in position to tackle Bush or the possibility of a big play looms large.

"You're never going to get him one-on-one," he said. "You can't leave anybody on islands and you have to gang-tackle. He breaks tackles, you know that going in. So just be there to help your guys out, don't leave anybody out there by themselves."

That wouldn't be so hard if Bush were all the Saints had on offense, but that's far from the case. This is not the same New Orleans team that went 3-13 last year, including a humbling 52-3 loss to the Packers here.

Brees came over from San Diego to play quarterback, running back Deuce McAllister is recovered from the knee injury he suffered at Lambeau that ended his 2005 season. McAllister had 22 carries for 90 yards last week, and his power running style looks like the perfect complement to Bush's speed and shiftiness.

"It's really only been one game, but if you go through the preseason, they've done a nice job of running downhill with Deuce and getting Reggie on the perimeter," Head Coach Mike McCarthy said.

Throw in Joe Horn, a four-time Pro Bowler and 1,000-yard receiver, and it brings Manuel back to his comparison to those Rams' Super Bowl teams.

"I have no better way to put it ... you have to find out where Marshall Faulk is, but at the same time you still had Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt," Manuel said. "You can't over-emphasize it, but you have to know he's a big part of the offense."

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