Ray's Replies: Why didn't Reggie Bush reach his potential?

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Ray's Replies: Why didn't Reggie Bush reach his potential?

Q. I’m going to call you on the carpet a little bit here so I hope you don’t mind. Before Reggie Bush was drafted, I remember hearing you on the radio touting his ability, which was quite obvious at the time. I think you used the words, “He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player” and “He’s that special.”
 
If we fast forward to now -- given the fact we all have the gift of hindsight -- he didn’t turn out to be all that special. I guess my question stems from the point of view of a talent evaluator for a pro team (which I’m not). What was it that you saw in him that made you think he would be that good and what happened to him that it didn’t work out that way?
 
This guy was as sure as the sure thing can be, but yet he’s not an every-down back and is at this point an afterthought in most people’s minds. I remember how people thought Houston was crazy for taking Mario Williams (ahead of Bush) but he has averaged about nine sacks per year even with a shortened year last year due to injury.
 
Eric T.
 
A. That’s a very good question, Eric, and timely, too, because we are now entering the pre-draft season in which every potential draft pick is scrutinized, analyzed and labeled, often incorrectly or unfairly. Certain guys will be labeled “can’t-miss” and they may be total busts. It happens every year.
 
You are right in one respect, I really did like Reggie Bush when he came out of Southern Cal in 2006. I’m not sure I ever called him a “once-in-a-lifetime” player, though. I didn’t think of him in those terms. Special? Yes, I’m sure I said that. But “once in a lifetime?” I don’t think so. But that’s beside the point.
 
You ask what I saw in him. I saw a dynamic runner with great vision and instinct, a back who combined 4.35 speed with the ability to cut on a dime and make tacklers miss. What really stood out was his pass-catching. I felt he was a better pure pass-catcher than any of the receivers in that draft. He combined soft hands with the ability to run crisp routes. He was ideally suited for the new NFL, a game of matchups, mismatches and throwing the football.
 
And, yes, I was one of those who felt Houston made a mistake when they passed on Bush and selected Mario Williams, a defensive end, with the first overall pick. I thought Texans GM Charlie Casserly made the wrong call. You got me there. Williams turned out to be a very good pick. Charlie was right and I was wrong.
 
But you ask what happened to Bush. Mostly, it was injuries. In his first five seasons, all with New Orleans, he never started more than 10 games in a season. From 2007-10, he missed 20 games with various injuries.
 
He certainly wasn’t a bust. He put up good numbers -- his 294 pass receptions led all NFL running backs in that period -- but he wasn’t the Barry Sanders-type franchise back that most people, including NFL scouts, expected him to be. He just kept getting hurt.
 
That’s what is so hard to predict. If a player has a history of injury either in high school or college, that’s one thing. It is buyer beware. If you draft him, you know what you’re getting. But Bush was not hurt at Southern Cal and he handled the ball a ton, running it, catching it and returning kicks. Durability was considered one of his many assets. That has not been the case since he came to the NFL.    
 
That’s what makes drafting players so tough. I sympathize with Howie Roseman and the other GMs in the league because so much is riding on every draft and so many things can go wrong. We all do mock drafts. We all rate players. We have our sleepers and our busts. But only the GMs have to live with those choices and ultimately answer for them. It isn’t easy.
 
If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it is there are no sure things in the draft. I’m the guy who rated Cade McNown as the best quarterback in the Class of 1999. Enough said.

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

Rays 7, Phillies 2: Mackanin calls Eickhoff 'a pretty darn good pitcher'

BOX SCORE

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff pitched two innings, allowed a hit, a run, walked one and struck out two in his spring debut on Monday.

Afterward, manager Pete Mackanin was asked what he believed Eickhoff's ceiling was.

"He's a pretty darn good pitcher right now," Mackanin said.

Indeed, he is.

In his first full season in the majors last year, the 26-year-old right-hander led the Phillies' starting staff in ERA (3.65), starts (33) and innings pitched (197 1/3).

He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining three pretty good pitchers named Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. He walked just 1.92 batters per nine innings and that was fourth-best among NL starters.

"Eickhoff is the kind of guy you can count on," Mackanin said. "He throws strikes. He knows what he's doing."

Eickhoff is intent on building on last year's success in 2017. The guy has a Halladay-like work ethic. He arrived in Clearwater on Feb. 1 and got right to work. After his two innings of work on Monday, he put in a couple of hours in the weight room and on a back field running.

"I just have to continue working," he said. "I have a very high standard for myself as a lot of us in here do. We want to be the best players that we can be."

Eickhoff is working on improving his changeup this spring and his overall goal is to make every start -- as he did last season.

"That's the priority -- make every start," he said. "That's always a priority for me.

"I'd also like to incorporate the changeup a little more and use my slider and curveball and not get heavily reliant on one or the other, which happened several times last year and I think got me into trouble at times. So incorporating both for the duration of the season and just being more crisp with execution and location is my goal.

"I'm always looking to get better. I think the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue working, whether it's being Greg Maddux-esque with command or having a good breaking ball, or throwing a changeup like Maddux and guys like that did. There's always something I'm working on and trying to develop and sharpen up."

Eickhoff lines up to start the second game of the regular season behind projected opening day starter Jeremy Hellickson.

The game
The Phillies lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-2. The Phils are 2-2 on the spring.

Maikel Franco had two hits, including his third homer of the spring. It was a long drive to left field on a 1-2 fastball. He also had a single to right field.

"The thing I like early in the spring from him is he's going deeper into counts," Mackanin said. "I think he's working toward a good year this year."

Stassi impresses
Non-roster player Brock Stassi, a candidate to win a job as a reserve first baseman and outfielder (see story), did not play in the game. He, however, has a single, double and homer in the first three games.

Mackanin gushed about Stassi’s defense when asked about it Monday.

"He's one of the best first basemen I've seen in a real long time," Mackanin said. "He has no need to improve on his defense and I like the way he swings the bat. He's a real solid baseball player so he's a guy I really want to get a good look at."

Pitching matters
Starting pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are both projected to pitch at Triple A. Both have been slowed early in camp because of health reasons, but are progressing well. Thompson has a sore right wrist and Eflin is recovering from a pair of surgeries to address tendinitis in both knees.

Both pitchers will continue to throw in the bullpen this week and ramp up to live batting practice next week. There is plenty of time for both pitchers to get their arms ready to open the season. However, the Phillies may decide to take a cautious approach with Eflin and let him build some more strength in his knees before they turn him loose. He could stay in Florida for a couple of extra weeks before joining the Triple A club.

Up next
The Phillies host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. Clay Buchholz will make his first start of the spring. Here is the Phillies' posted starting lineup for the game:

1. Freddy Galvis, SS
2. Howie Kendrick, LF
3. Odubel Herrera, CF
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Michael Saunders, DH
6. Tommy Joseph, 1B
7. Chris Coghlan, RF
8. Cameron Rupp, C
9. Scott Kingery, 2B

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

Sixers waive big man Andrew Bogut

To no surprise, Andrew Bogut is not part of the process.

The veteran big man, acquired in the Nerlens Noel trade last week, was waived by the Sixers on Monday night.

The Vertical's Shams Charania and ESPN's Marc Stein first reported the news of both parties agreeing to a contract buyout.

Bogut was included in the Sixers-Mavericks deal that sent Noel to Dallas in exchange for the 32-year-old center, Justin Anderson and a top-18 protected first-round pick (which will likely turn into two second-round picks).

Bogut will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Per a report Sunday by ESPN's Tim MacMahon, Bogut was set on joining Clevelend once a contract buyout with the Sixers was finalized. Bogut will have discussions with the Cavaliers, Spurs, Celtics and Rockets before making his decision, according to Stein's report.

Bogut played 26 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.