By: Will Burchfield
The question concerned the Lions “up-and-down” offensive line, and Ameer Abdullah interjected before it could be asked.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he said.
“They’re doing their job. I feel like it gets lost sometimes that we’re playing other NFL teams, too. I definitely understand that they’re very highly scrutinized because that’s been the narrative that’s been drawn up about them: ‘Oh, they struggle, this and that.’ When you watch the film, these dudes have been playing well,” Abdullah said.
Within the Lions’ sputtering offense, the O-line has certainly been the source of most consternation. Beset by injuries, most notably to left tackle Taylor Decker, it has neither been able to keep Matthew Stafford upright nor pave a way for the running game.
But Ameer Abdullah, who’s averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, feels the offensive linemen have been getting an unfair rap. And he refuses to indulge in excuses.
“It’s not like they’re just falling down at the snap. We’re going to change that narrative, because it’s an easy cop-out for me or anyone in this locker room to say, ‘Man, our O-line’s inconsistent.’ You watch the film, they’ve been playing decent,” said Abdullah.
It’s breakdowns elsewhere, he said, that have contributed to the team’s blocking issues.
“And that just shows that everything is connected. Something as simple as a receiver not running the right depth may make the O-line look bad. A lot of people don’t understand that until you’ve turned on the film,” Abdullah said.
“So I definitely have to denounce that, that they’ve been playing inconsistent. They’ve been playing good ball. Could they better in some areas? We all can, but nah, it’s not an O-line issue in my opinion.”
Through six games, the Lions rank 26th in both yards per game (298) and rushing yards per game (84). Much was made about the healthy tandem of Abdullah and Theo Riddick entering the season, but it’s yielded scant returns so far. Abdullah, the lead back, is averaging just 57 yards per game.
Even if the O-line isn’t the problem, Abdullah acknowledged he and Riddick need to create more opportunities on their own.
“Definitely, and that’s always been my thing, man. Me and Theo pride ourselves on making people miss. No matter what happens, making at least one guy miss. That’s more so the direction of improvement, I feel like, continue to make guys miss. Be better. I have to be better. Been decent, but have to be a lot better,” said Abdullah, who missed most of last season with a torn ligament in his foot.
Personally, he’s still finding his groove — “I’m coming off a year where I was injured so I always try to feel my way through each game,” he said — and so is the Lions’ offense. But he believes a breakout is around the corner.
“I feel like we’re in a spot where we’re really close, and that’s about all I can ask for at this point,” said Abdullah. “We don’t have it all figured out, but to see the direction we’re headed in is encouraging.
“The statistics aren’t bad, but there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be in a whole different department. We have that mindset and that motivation, so I have no doubt that it will happen.”
The run game appeared to have things figured out in Week 2, when Abdullah rushed for 86 yards against the Giants, and again in Week 4, when he gained 94 yards versus the Vikings. Asked what happened differently in those games, Abdullah said, “Not a lot, man. I’m telling you, it’s not a lot that’s different.”
“The funny thing about this league is a lot of games come down to two or three plays that may take us out of a situation or make things a little more difficult for us. If we can eliminate some of those plays that take us out of running situations, and not get down early, it will allow our games to move and transition more smoothly,” he said.
Given the strength of the Steelers’ pass defense, it’s paramount on Sunday night that the Lions play ahead of the sticks and avoid third and long.
“Definitely,” said Abdullah, “and that’s the running game as well. Have to hit early and hit fast, that’s as simple as I can put it.”
He certainly won’t put it on the offensive line.