The former undrafted rookie out of South Carolina State had quite the free agency this year. After being given the restricted free agent tag by the Saints, the team he started his NFL career with – the Atlanta Falcons – chose to extend an offer sheet to him, which he signed. Finally breaking free from his backup/rotational spot in New Orleans to start at free safety for the Falcons, he was understandably keen on the move. But the cash-strapped Saints matched the offer sheet, ending his shot to play alongside his friend William Moore.
The Falcons were interested in him for good reason – he quietly had a career year playing in the Saints secondary:
Statistics acquired from Pro Football Focus (subscription required)
(Blue – best in the NFL. Green – top 5 in the NFL. Yellow – bottom 5 in the NFL. Red – worst in the NFL)
Granted, it’s only a small selection of statistics, but you can see just how big a season he had last year – leading the NFL in any category is no joke.
In week 17 last year, he played a lot of both free and strong safety as Vaccaro was on IR. He displayed a pretty impressive ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and make a play. In the following play close to the end of the first quarter, he broke up a pass down the sideline to Vincent Jackson.
Initially, he’s lined up as the free safety in a single-high look.
As the ball is snapped, Mike Glennon looks to the left, to his favorite target. Bush opens his body to that side of the field, while still keeping his eyes on the quarterback.
Once Glennon cocks his arm, Bush takes off. Before the ball even left Glennon’s arm, Bush has already gained about 4-5 yards.
By the time Vincent Jackson adjusts his body to make the catch, Bush is already there to make the play (which would have got the Buccaneers 30 yards and into field goal range, instead of forcing a 3rd-and-long situation they couldn’t convert).
It was plays like that, which became staples of the second-ranked pass defence in the NFL. The jump from Jenkins to Byrd as the starting free safety is tantalizing enough for Saints fans. But to have a guy like Bush backing up Byrd at free safety is simply unfair.