Today is the start of “hype week” at SB Nation, and everywhere across the NFL team sites you’ll find different players that have people excited.
For us, that player is Ameer Abdullah, the third-year running back from Nebraska, and the player currently penciled in atop the depth chart of runners. While he’s shown brief glimpses brilliance out of the backfield, Abdullah has yet to put it all together over the course of an NFL season. In 2017, the opportunity is his to seize, and there’s no time like the present to make it his best season as a pro.
From the Jump
The hype for Abdullah was real from the get-go, and it all started with this one run during the preseason opener against the New York Jets in 2015:
After a simple bit of misdirection before the handoff, Abdullah’s run against the Jets showed his ability to both set up and take advantage of cutback lanes with his agility and burst. It was a perfect appetizer for the main course he served up in Week 1 of the regular season when the Lions headed west to face the San Diego Chargers:
Abdullah’s rookie season was a mixed bag. Fumbles and inconsistent performances marred his 2015 season, but the Lions’ struggles on offense belonged to the unit as a whole. Detroit’s offensive line ranked 29th in stuffed percentage according to Football Outsiders, and it wasn’t until Jim Bob Cooter took over midseason that both Abdullah and the offense started to play with more consistency. We took a look at how much Abdullah and the rushing offense improved in the second half of the season in our roster review series earlier in the offseason:
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.
A shoulder injury suffered during his rookie season required offseason surgery, but it didn’t cost him the start of his 2016 season... but a foot injury would end up costing him his season after just six quarters of extremely promising football. He ran the ball 18 times for 101 yards, and picked up a touchdown on this reception in the season-opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Why 2017 is Abdullah’s Year
Media types have banded together in their hype for Abdullah in the upcoming season, choosing to dig in their crates to spin the “big if ‘x’ happens” records. Abdullah’s health is a legitimate question, even if him being labeled “injury-prone” is off-base and premature.
The winds of change didn’t come blowing through Detroit when some fans expected general manager Bob Quinn to add a running back in the 2017 NFL Draft.
“I feel pretty good about the position," said Quinn about the running back position after the dust from the draft had settled. And while the thought of taking a running back with one of their nine draft picks wasn’t out of the question or off the table for Detroit, Quinn didn’t see a prospect that would take away the opportunity Abdullah has to have a breakout season in 2017.
After showing the potential to be an explosive and exciting runner, Quinn has done his part to build up a more complete and balanced offensive line, and his vote of confidence in a player he didn’t even draft is quite the endorsement for a guy so preoccupied with overhauling the roster.
The hype for Ameer Abdullah is once again as tangible as it once was when it all started with a little misdirection. Lions fans just hope his success won’t be as elusive as he is.