Teammate Jamal Agnew earned first-team All-Pro honors as a specialist last season, but he was far more effective returning punts than kickoffs, where Agnew averaged just 17.9 yards per attempt. Abdullah, on the other hand, was a force as a kick returner during his rookie year when he finished first in the league with 1,077 yards and second with a 29.1-yard average, so it's not a huge surprise that Abdullah has surpassed Agnew on the depth chart in that phase of the game. While his roster spot seemed to be in jeopardy when training camp opened, Abdullah now seems to be the clear leader in the competition for the No. 4 job at running back, though the versatile Zach Zenner is still firmly in the mix.
General manager Bob Quinn said Abdullah will have to compete for his snaps ahead of the 2018 season, Michael Rothstein of ESPN reports.
Abdullah has failed to spark the Lions' dormant run game since the team made him a second-round pick in 2014. In an effort to turn the tide, Detroit bolstered the depth chart by signing LeGarrette Blount in free agency before adding Kerryon Johnson out of Auburn in the second round of this year's draft. With Johnson having the skills to be a featured back, Blount the most fit for goal-line work, and holdover Theo Riddick a standout receiver, Abdullah seems to be on the outside looking in. In fact, his mere spot on the roster could be in danger.
Abdullah has had a full offseason to train for the first time in his career, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. "Definitely ready for a big year," the running back recently said. "My body feels as good as it's felt since I've been here, so I think that's the most important thing. I've had an unfortunate streak of two injuries in a row. Coming back from those have been tough in their own respect, but I'm glad I'm all the way back."
Abdullah, who entered the league in 2015, needed surgery to repair a torn labrum after his rookie year and then missed a good chunk of the 2017 offseason recovering from a Lisfranc injury he suffered two games into the 2016 campaign. Abdullah's also the owner of a career 3.8 YPC mark and has currently fallen to No. 3 on the depth chart after starting 2017 in the lead role. It's difficult to gauge how much blame for his professional struggles is due to this lack of offseason availability, but it seems obvious that a rehabilitation-free offseason is more favorable than the alternative. The Lions front office hasn't given up on the running back, as general manager Bob Quinn recently indicated that Abdullah remains in the team's plans ahead going forward. However, Detroit's addition of LeGarrette Blount, coupled with the high likelihood that Quinn invests in this year's deep class of running backs, makes Abdullah's exact role uncertain.
Abdullah lost work to undrafted rookie Tion Green down the stretch last season, taking only 15 carries over the final three weeks after returning from a two-game absence due to a neck injury amidst rumors he was essentially a healthy scratch for the second game. The 2015 second-round pick has never lived up to expectations, and the Lions' recent signing of LeGarrette Blount hints at something quite different from what Quinn said Tuesday when asked about Abdullah. With Theo Riddick locked in on passing downs while Blount likely handles goal-line work and at least some of the early down carries, Abdullah likely will need to compete for a committee role that's not especially conducive to fantasy production. He may even find his roster spot in jeopardy if the Lions use an early or middle-round draft pick on a running back.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn seemed to acknowledge that Abdullah isn't a special talent, but Quinn nonetheless is hopeful the 2015 second-round pick can be a productive part of the team's 2018 backfield. Abdullah managed just 552 yards on 165 carries (3.3 average) and 162 yards on 25 catches (6.5 average) last season, but he at least managed to play 14 games after logging just two appearances the previous year. With Theo Riddick locked in on passing downs, Abdullah could find his roster spot in jeopardy if the Lions bring in an early draft pick or pricey free agent to compete for early-down work. The team did retain offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who has done excellent work with Matthew Stafford despite failing to establish a respectable running game.
|P3||8/24/18||@ TB||8:00 pm|
|2||9/16/18||@ SF||4:05 pm|
|4||9/30/18||@ DAL||1:00 pm|
|Bye: Week 6|
|7||10/21/18||@ MIA||1:00 pm|
|9||11/4/18||@ MIN||1:00 pm|
|10||11/11/18||@ CHI||1:00 pm|
|14||12/9/18||@ ARI||4:25 pm|
|15||12/16/18||@ BUF||1:00 pm|
|17||12/30/18||@ GB||1:00 pm|
|Year||Team||G||Fum||Lost||Fum Forced||Own Rec||Opp Rec||Yds||Tot Rec||TD|