As Joique Bell continues his recovery process from offseason surgery, rookie running back Ameer Abdullah is making a case for the feature back role in Detroit. Abdullah is not only drawing praises from the coaching staff, but quarterback Matt Stafford really likes what he sees from the rookie. “”Out of the backfield, catching the ball, he’s great. He’s got great hands. He has a good feel for route running,” said Stafford.
The Lions drafted Abdullah in the second-round of the 2015 NFL draft. The senior back out of Nebraska was the clear-cut best back after Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. The Lions drafted Abdullah to fill the void left through free agency by Reggie Bush. Abdullah’s quick pace and great pass-catching ability resembles that of Bush. Abdullah has already started to make a name for himself in camp as a pass catching machine.
“I like Abdullah more every day,” offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, told Detroit Free Press. “He’s a real pro, and every day, you can see him do things that really excite you.”
The knock on Abdullah is that he is undersized and has a legitimate fumbling issue. Abdullah’s small hands cost him 13 fumbles over four years at Nebraska. Abdullah is slated to assist in kick and punt returns but could push for the starting role.
Bell could find himself second on the depth chart depending on how the fifth-year back rebounds from his injuries. After a couple of seasons behind Reggie Bush, Bell finally took over lead tailback duties halfway through the 2014 season. Bell underwent a cleanup procedure on his knee and Achilles tendon in January and now finds himself facing heavy competition for the number one spot on the depth chart yet again.
Another back gunning for that number one spot is third-year tailback, Theo Riddick. Riddick made the most of his time on the field when Bush went out to injury. Most effective in the receiving game, Riddick caught 34 receptions for 316 yards and four touchdowns. The sentiment around the locker room is that, “Riddick is too good NOT to be on the field.”
These two backs alone will take away 200+ touches away from Bell. That’s at least 200 given Bell is not in shape by time the season starts. Bell has already missed all of OTA’s due to the surgery and is not expected back until the first week of minicamp in August.
Bell has undoubtedly proven himself on the field as a capable back to handle a large load. With his large frame (six-foot, 230 pounds) and one-cut ability at the line, he is the ideal three-down-back.
However, Bell has had surgery three times in the past two years and although it may be too early to label him injury-prone, one can’t deny the bundle of talent in the Lions backfield. Bell has the potential to be a bell cow back in the NFL; it just won’t be this season.