The Detroit Lions’ running game has been pretty awful through two preseason games. Theo Riddick is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry. Zach Zenner is even worse at 2.5 yards a carry. Stevan Ridley is at 3.0 a carry. The only saving grace is rookie Dwayne Washington, who is averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry but against shoddy competition.
Through two games, the Lions’ biggest rush from a running back is just 12 yards, and they only have one rushing touchdown. Even though it’s just preseason, it’s a bleak outlook for what could be coming three weeks down the road when the Lions head to Indianapolis for the season opener.
But there’s one potential saving grace. One not-so-secret weapon the Lions have yet to deploy this preseason. Ameer Abdullah has shed his no-contact red jersey and could potentially play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Ravens. Abdullah has received a lot of hype as a potential breakout star in his sophomore season. So we once again tapped Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders to give us his opinion on what is in store for Abdullah and the rest of the Lions’ running game in 2016.
For the other four installments of our interview with Verhei, check out the parts below:
- Part 1: Who was responsible for the Detroit Lions’ offensive turnaround in 2015?
- Part 2: How much is Theo Riddick worth?
- Part 3: Why did the Lions’ defense regress in 2015?
- Part 4: What are your projections for the Lions’ offensive line?
Do you believe that Ameer Abdullah could be poised for a breakout year? Who do you view as his most likely power-back counterpart?
I don't see that happening. Even after Cooter's promotion, his numbers were just average in the second half of last year, and Cooter is likely to give whoever wins the power back job plenty of carries. As for who that will be, that's anyone's guess -- Ridley was terrible for the Jets last year, but very effective in prior years in New England's rotation. Zach Zenner was tremendous in Detroit's preseason last year (5.2 yards per carry), and was probably Detroit's best runner in the first half of last season before he got hurt.
As a reminder, go check out Football Outsiders 2016 NFL almanac, which features even more valuable information about the Detroit Lions and every other team in the NFL. If you crave advanced statistics, this should be your first source.
I also want to thank Vincent Verhei for his answers that took he took some serious time to give. Verhei knows what he’s talking about and you can get a piece of that info by following him on Twitter @FO_VVerhei.