By: Will Burchfield
Ameer Abdullah was in a chipper mood following the Lions’ poor showing versus the Patriots on Friday night, at least as far the starters were concerned.
Yes, this is simply his demeanor. And true, the preseason is no time to get down, no matter the results.
Still, the animation in Abdullah’s voice suggested he was at least somewhat pleased with how things went on the field. Hard to blame him.
The third-year running back continued his strong preseason, rushing 13 times for 60 yards. He also hauled in three passes for 39 yards. Through three preseason games he’s averaging 4.3 yards per carry.
This is what the Lions missed last year, when Abdullah went down for the season in Week 2. It’s what they need this year.
“I think he does what he does,” said Jim Caldwell. “He creates being able to get in seams, tight seams, and he creates yardage for you. He’ll make a guy miss here or there and I think that he’s been just coming along. You can see he’s got his quickness, his elusiveness back. We’re pleased with where he is.”
The Lions finished 30th in the league last year in rushing. They won nine games on the strength of Matthew Stafford’s arm and eight fourth-quarter comebacks. They won’t repeat that formula again.
They need a semblance of a running game, and Abdullah is the man to lead it.
He started slow on Friday night but found his rhythm as the first half wore on. True, a healthy bulk of his yardage was accrued in the third quarter when the Patriots had pulled most of their defensive starters, but Abdullah showed burst when given the opportunity.
Said Matthew Stafford, “I think he’s done a nice job. He’s a talented runner, obviously. Got on the edge a couple times later in the game today for us and did a nice job. Early on, tough sledding a little bit in there, but finished the game nicely.”
The Lions have the straight-ahead bruisers they need in the backfield in the likes of Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington (who had a terrific game on Friday). They have a fantastic pass-catcher in Theo Riddick. Abdullah, in theory, is the one who can bounce it outside and make plays in the open field.
“My groove is coming along. I don’t think I’m all the way there yet. My eyes haven’t been the best up to my standard, but it’s coming along and it’s encouraging,” Abdullah said.
Vision is a critical part of Abdullah’s game. His ability to identify holes and pick out seams is what allows his talent to shine. It’s an instinctual skill, but also one that must be tailored to a playbook.
“It’s still new to me, that’s what some people gotta understand. I only had my rookie year, essentially, and I was learning. We didn’t run the ball that much that year, either. I’m still trying to understand some of the schemes myself — okay, this is why they wanna combo to this guy, instead of what I was used to at Nebraska where we might combo to the backside,” Abdullah said. “There’s a lot of things that are different.”
The 24-year-old has only played 11 games in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. He’ll be an integral part of it this season.
“I’m still fine-tuning some things myself,” said Abdullah. “What helps me out is knowing the league, knowing how players react.”