Our 2016 Detroit Lions roster review continues with running back Ameer Abdullah.
Expectations before 2016
Abdullah’s rookie season, if it was a roller coaster, was the Millennium Force: No hill was quite as exhilarating as that first carry from scrimmage.
From there, Abdullah would experience intermittent bouts of success marred by struggles with ball security and the misfortune of joining a crowded backfield in flux. The team’s offensive identity was also in a transitional period after offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was fired after a 1-6 start to the season.
With the promotion of Jim Bob Cooter, Abdullah saw more steady usage in the second half of 2015, and found more consistent spurts of success. Before Cooter, Abdullah compiled 222 yards on 62 carries—good for 3.6 YPC. In the final eight games of the season, Abdullah’s 375 yards on 81 attempts resulted in a full yard per carry increase to 4.6 YPC.
After the Lions cleared up their situation in the backfield in the offseason, the Lions were poised to have a pair of dual-threat running backs: Theo Riddick, the receiving specialist, and Abdullah taking the bulk of the carries.
Actual role in 2016
2016 stats: 2 games (2 starts) | 18 rushes, 101 yards; 5 receptions, 57 yards, 1 touchdown
If the first game and a half of 2016 were any indication, Ameer Abdullah could have very well been on his way to becoming the most successful rusher for Detroit in almost two decades.
.@OkayWilly24 X-rays are reportedly negative, hoping it's not one of those high ankle sprains that lingers. pic.twitter.com/H8txIYT9OB— Ryan Mathews (@Ryan_POD) September 19, 2016
(Please direct all blame towards me for playing dime store doctor and derailing Abdullah’s hot start to 2016).
Weeks later, after opinions and second opinions, surgery put him on injured reserve. Not all hope for his return was lost though, as the NFL made changes prior to the 2016 season that allowed one team to designate a player to return from IR:
#Lions RB Ameer Abdullah was put on IR this week with a badly sprained foot/ankle. The hope is he returns shortly after the bye in Week 10.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 25, 2016
This continued throughout the season with an outside chance of Abdullah returning to the Lions backfield always looming, but never realized.
Outlook for 2017
Even after the setback, Ameer was as confident as ever in his ability to bounce back from this injury and get back on track towards becoming one of the best running backs in the NFL.
“Coming into this league, I had no other plans but to be a premier NFL back in this league, and I know I will be," said Abdullah during his exit interview after Detroit’s loss to Seattle in the Wild Card round.
With him missing this past season, fans and media alike have started to toss around the label of “injury-prone” to describe Abdullah, and use this as a reason for the Lions to target a running back early in the 2017 NFL Draft. Up until the 2016 season, however, Abdullah hadn’t missed a game, neither collegiately or during his rookie campaign in Detroit.
Before the end of last week, Abdullah posted a video on his Instagram account of him sprinting on a treadmill faster than human beings should be able to, especially those who just had foot surgery in late September. Modern medicine is wild, but it looks like Ameer is on track to be ready for football come April.
Bob Quinn’s attention towards the offensive line in last year’s draft saw the arrival of some important players in Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow. Detroit is faced with a large dilemma in free agency when it comes to the right side of their offensive line, but that should hold priority over an “upgrade” at the running back position; this backfield is filled with plenty of diversified talent in Riddick, who was signed to a three-year extension before the season, and Abdullah, a great asset as a good zone running back that fits Cooter’s scheme.
Previously profiled Lions: Riley Reiff, Anquan Boldin, Dan Orlovsky, Devin Taylor, Rafael Bush, Don Muhlbach, Larry Warford, Andre Roberts, TJ Jones, Kerry Hyder, Jon Bostic, Marvin Jones, Alex Carter, Tim Wright, Armonty Bryant, Clay Harbor, Crezdon Butler, Matthew Mulligan, Asa Jackson, Tyrunn Walker, Josh Bynes, Stefan Charles, Cornelius Lucas, Steve Longa, Joique Bell, Taylor Decker, Garrett Reynolds, Jake Rudock, Tavon Wilson