For Josh Bush, it seems like only yesterday when he was gearing up for his first NFL training camp.
Now it’s the middle of December and his rookie season is reaching its final stages.
“It’s gone by very fast,” Bush said Thursday inside the Jets locker room. “People were telling me stories about the rookie wall and this and that, but it’s flying by to me.”
Unlike his teammate, wide receiver Stephen Hill, Bush said of the rookie wall: “I haven’t experienced it.”
The Jets’ sixth-round draft selection described his first year in the pros as fun but admitted things could be better if the team had a winning record. The Green & White are 6-7 but still have a chance to end their season with an above-.500 record as three regular-season games remain.
One week ago, Bush made one of the best plays of his young NFL career during the Jets’ 17-10 win Jacksonville. On the second-half kickoff, he beat his block and took down returner Jordan Todman with a low tackle at the Jaguars’ 11-yard line. The play seemed to ignite the entire team as the Jets defense immediately forced a three-and-out and minutes later the Jets offense scored their first TD of the afternoon when RB Shonn Greene rushed for a 1-yard score to cap a nine-play, 57-yard drive.
“We just went over it in a special teams meeting,” Bush said of the play. “We put something new in. Coach Westhoff drew up a great play. I was really coming down, stacking up behind Antonio [Allen], and I read it. Nick [Bellore] was playing off of me, and the hole just opened up.”
No. 32 said he was only doing his job on the play, but acknowledged it was nice to see the play executed properly.
“We definitely practiced it,” he said. “That was exactly what we practiced.”
Bush, a safety on defense, has played a significant role on special teams this season. He played on 15 special teams plays against Jacksonville and on 168 this season, 44% of the Jets’ total ST plays. And his tackle of Todman was his 13th on kick and punt coverage this season, tying him for the team lead with Nick Bellore and fellow rookie Demario Davis.
Yet he never played special teams in high school and his only action on specials at Wake Forest occurred early his freshman year.
Although he hasn’t seen much action at his natural position, he has valued the opportunity to learn from coordinator Mike Westhoff, now in what he’s said is his final season as an NFL coach. Bush said what Westhoff has taught him most is that focusing on the task at hand can lead to successful things getting done. Yet early on, Bush said the ST coach had his doubts on whether he could ever be a special teams factor.
“He honestly told me when they drafted me that he didn’t think I’d be able to play special teams,” Bush said. “So just to hear that from him, and him telling me that I’ve been doing a good job, that’s just a positive.”
The Jets rank eighth in opponents’ kickoff-return average and are 13th with opponents’ drives averaging starts at their 21.5 yard-line. At the same time, they lead the league with 22 opponents’ drives starting inside their own 20. While the ranking certainly isn’t despairing, Bush knows it could be better.
“We’ve had ups and downs,” Bush said. “But for the most part, it’s not where we want to be.”
Tennessee’s kick-return unit ranks 31st in the NFL in return average, but Bush said the Jets, in a must-win situation every week now, can’t afford to overlook main returner Darius Reynaud and the Titans.
“It’s the NFL,” Bush said. “You can’t sleep on anyone. Special teams is a very important part of the game, so you’ve got to bring it every time.”
*Special Teams Sunday
Tags: Darius Reynaud, Demario Davis, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jordan Todman, Josh Bush, Mike Westhoff, Nick Bellore, Tennessee Titans
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