Breaking News! The Lions run game was really bad last year (and the year before that (and the year before that)). Obviously I’m not telling you something you don’t know here, but here’s one more run at the greatest hits for old time’s sake. They haven't had a 100-yard rusher since 2013, haven’t ranked higher than 17th in total rushing yards since 1998, have only had four 1,000 yard rushers since Barry Sanders retired, and, of course, they’ve finished dead last in rushing in the two of the past three seasons.
But even after all of that, I found one stat to be particularly earth-shattering.
The Lions finished 7th in points per game in 2017. Here’s the rushing ranks of Each top 10 team.— Mike Payton (@POD_Payton) May 17, 2018
One of these teams is going to be incredibly scary with a run game.
Despite having zero run game, the Lions offense has been pretty legit. It makes you wonder what this team can do if they actually had a run game.
I think Bob Quinn was wondering exactly that after the Lions season ended, because once he was able to, he went out and stocked up on running backs. The Lions signed veteran LeGarrette Blount fresh off of two Super Bowl wins and leading the league in rushing touchdowns in 2016. Then he traded up to get Kerryon Johnson of Auburn, a player I’ve decided to just go ahead and say that I’m un-cautiously optimistic about. With these guys and Theo Riddick on the roster, that reveals a big question: What do you do with Ameer Abdullah?
It is safe to say that Abdullah has not quite lived up to the hype after a somewhat promising rookie campaign. He missed nearly the entire 2016 season with a lisfranc injury and then his 2017 season saw him getting benched about midway through.
Nobody truly knows why Abdullah was benched by Jim Caldwell, but I believe he was not being used properly by the team. He was nowhere to be found on third down and would sometimes disappear for quarters at a time for no reason—sometimes when he was playing well. And even Ameer hasn’t been shy about this.
“It’s hard when I come in and I get a carry and I break it for about 10 yards. Then I come out for about three plays,” Abdullah said on a recent podcast. “Then I got to come in to like pass protect. Then I don’t get my next carry until like the next quarter.”
So we find ourselves coming back to the question of what do you do with Ameer Abdullah?here are three routes the Lions can take with the former second round pick.
This is one of the most popular scenarios. The idea is that Ameer has something, but he just doesn’t have it with Detroit. Somebody has to want him right? Well I have no doubt that this is true, but can the Lions get anything worthwhile for him? Well let’s look at the market.
To try to gauge he value the Lions would get, I looked at the recent trades involving running backs. Jay Ajayi was the last running back to get traded. The Dolphins were able to net a fourth-round pick from the Eagles for Ajayi. Here’s the thing though, Ajayi ran for 873 yards in 2017. He hit 1,272 in 2016. Abdullah has topped out at 597 in 2015. So the value is nowhere near the same.
Where Abdullah could find similar value is in the Adrian Peterson trade. Remember, we’re talking 2017 Adrian Peterson. The Saints traded Adrian for a sixth-round pick. The Lions, in my opinion, shouldn't have a problem stealing a sixth-round pick away from a team that’s in need of a running back. I’ve said it million times, Abdullah would make a fine addition to the Patriots. The Lions have a good trade rapport there. Maybe they can work together here.
If the Lions can’t find a suitor willing to give away a pick or a player for Abdullah, and Ameer isn’t able to show that he’s worth keeping, this is sort of an easy cut for the Lions. I hate to say easy cut because it implies that Abdullah isn’t talented, but the fact is it that it would only cos the Lions $320,660 in dead money per Spotrac. The downside? He would only create just over $1 million in extra cap space.
With Abdullah being in the last year of his deal, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind getting the chance to go through free agency a year earlier than expected, but it may harm his chance to really get paid or get a long-term deal. And, of course, he would find his options limited this late in the offseason.
Finally, there’s the obvious final choice. Look, things are different now. The Lions have rid themselves of Jim Caldwell and former offensive line coach Ron Prince. The latter is a guy that so many of us believe had a lot to do with the Lions inefficiency in the run game.
The Lions have spent their entire offseason on improving the run game. They’ve picked up multiple linemen in both the draft and free agency. And they picked up the aforementioned running backs, to boot.
With that in mind, Abdullah could be primed to get a real chance to shine in this offense with the right players and the right mind in place. In the end, that’s really what it’s all about. Just having the right guys to protect and the right guys to know when and where to run the ball.
I think we all have thought that one of these guys has to be the odd man out, but so much this offseason has indicated the opposite. Quinn has said a couple times that the Lions may carry up to five running backs in 2018. We could be looking at more of a running back by committee until Johnson takes his rightful place next to Zeus in mythology.
If that’s the case, there’s a lot that Abdullah can still offer as a role player. We fancy Theo Riddick as the beast pass-catching running back in the NFL, and in a lot of ways, he is. But Ameer is more than capable of taking a pass to the house as well. Abdullah can also change the pace after a guy like Blount goes out and rings some bells in between the tackles.
Abdullah may still very well be on his way out when all is said and done, but the Lions can still utilize him. At the same time, we can’t count Abdullah out as the main man either. While he has had that trouble in the past, Abdullah still flashes moments of greatness. Perhaps with a healthy line and an improved run scheme, he can flash that again.
What should the Lions do with Ameer Abdullah?
This poll is closed