PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Yes, Reggie Bush gives the Buffalo Bills depth in their offensive backfield. But it’s on special teams where he could make his early mark in Buffalo.
Rex Ryan was asked Monday, prior to Bush’s signing becoming official, about the state of the Bills’ kick and punt-return units, and the typically frank coach didn’t hold back in providing his observations.
“[It’s] not really good as it stands right now,” Ryan said. “Hey, let’s be honest. That’s somewhere we want to be better at, we struggle a little bit. We don’t have that true return specialist, if you will, so we’re trying to improve. … That certainly wasn’t our strength last year. We fumbled three punts, we weren’t very explosive in the return game, so we’re definitely trying to improve in that area.”
That sets the stage for Bush to take over punt-return duties as soon as he eases into practice this upcoming week.
The Bills had used Walter Powell, who spent most of last season on the practice squad, and veteran Javier Arenas in that role in three practices to this point in training camp, adding journeyman wide receiver Greg Salas to the mix Monday. Powell and fourth-year receiver Marquise Goodwin have handled kickoff-return duties so far in camp.
Bush has only one career kick return, but he spent the early part of his career returning punts for the New Orleans Saints. After not fielding a punt from 2012-14, Bush returned two punts last season and said Monday that he feels he can be used as a kick or punt returner this season.
As for what role Bush will hold on offense, he noted Monday that offensive coordinator Greg Roman has already bounced around the idea of using both Bush and LeSean McCoy in two-running back sets.
Overall, Bush should lead the pack of what is becoming a crowded, yet unsettled Bills backfield:
Karlos Williams: The 2015 fifth-round pick’s terrific rookie season has crumbled. Williams remains on the non-football illness list and still appeared to be overweight as he reported to camp this week and went through conditioning drills with other sidelined players. He is suspended for the first four games of the regular season because of a NFL substance abuse policy violation, and at this point, it’s up to him where he fits upon his return in Week 5.
Mike Gillislee: He has the inside track to the No. 3 role behind McCoy and Bush if he can continue to impress the coaching staff. Rex Ryan nicknamed him “Touchdown Mike” last season for scoring three times on 47 carries — from 60, 50 and 19 yards. “My name is Mike, man,” Gillislee said Monday. “I like [the nickname], and it’s a good name, and I carry it, but it also puts a lot of pressure [on me]. But I’ll take it. Touchdown Mike it is.”
Jonathan Williams: The Bills’ 2016 fifth-round pick was arrested in August for suspicion of DWI, but he isn’t likely to be suspended until there is a resolution in his legal case, which might not come for months. In either case, Williams projects to the No. 4 role behind McCoy, Bush and Gillislee to start the season, although he can push Gillislee and Bush with a strong preseason.
James Wilder: He joined the Bills early this offseason and as much as Karlos Williams’ suspension was a boost to his chances to earn a 53-man roster spot, Bush’s addition knocks Wilder back down the pole. He could earn a role on the practice squad with a quality August.
Dan Herron: Nicknamed “Boom,” he was re-signed this spring when the team was low on numbers at running back. His hold on a 90-man roster spot becomes tenuous as Bush joins the Bills.