Detroit Lions: Ameer Abdullah stands out at OTAs

Sep 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah (21) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah (21) rushes against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports /

Running back Ameer Abdullah looked sharp at Detroit Lions organized team activities. Is the third-year pro’s career set to take off in 2017?

With the first set of Detroit Lions voluntary organized team activities wrapping up, it finally feels like football season is underway. There is little doubt that OTAs represent a time of hope for football fans, as every team is undefeated, and every franchise has the potential to succeed.

With that being said, these practices also represent a time of uncertainty. After an entire offseason of roster-building and turnover, there are always many questions on the minds of NFL fans everywhere. Lions fans are no strangers to this situation and in 2017, there is much to be curious about.

How will new acquisitions like Rick Wagner look in their first seasons with their new team? Will first-round pick Jarrad Davis lock up the starting middle linebacker job, and what sort of roles will other Lions rookies earn out of the gate? Will Matthew Stafford and Ezekiel Ansah sign new contracts prior to mandatory mini-camps, or will talks linger on?

While it’s nice to have a taste of the NFL in late May, very few of these inquiries can truly be resolved in such short order. However, one lingering question that appears much closer to being answered is what to expect of running back Ameer Abdullah as he returns to the football field.

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Abdullah, a former Nebraska star, appeared set for a breakout campaign in 2016 before tearing a ligament in his foot during a Week 2 contest against the Tennessee Titans. Prior to the season-ending injury, Abdullah was on a tear, racking up 101 rushing yards on 18 carries (5.6 YPC), while adding five catches for 57 yards and a receiving touchdown. It was a frustrating turn of events for a promising young player and a franchise hoping to establish a productive running game for the first time in several years.

Heading into the offseason, there was a lot of talk about what was next for Abdullah in Detroit. Mere months ago, questions remained about what sort of role the former second-round pick could expect in 2017, but after the Lions passed on adding a running back in the draft and declined to make offers to free agent rushers like LeGarrette Blount, Abdullah is ready for a heavy workload this year (per Tim Twentyman). Even if the team does decide to add a veteran runner as the season approaches, it would likely only be for depth purposes, and Abdullah would clearly remain the top option in the backfield.

While some may view this as a risky move given his injury history, if the early returns from the opening round of OTAs are any indication, general manager Bob Quinn may very well have made the right decision.

Indeed, Abdullah has been turning heads in Allen Park with his acceleration and quickness and to this point, every tidbit of information about his first football activities has been overwhelmingly positive. Clearly, reporters and beat writers close to the team have been impressed, and this is echoed by commentary from Carlos Monarrez of The Detroit Free Press:

"Even though the practice amounted to little more than non-contact drills in shorts and helmets, Abdullah looked good in his first action since he had foot surgery after playing just two games last season."

Justin Rogers of The Detroit News takes this sentiment a step further:

"Ameer Abdullah didn’t show any signs of limitations as he fully participated in Wednesday’s OTA practice, even taking handoffs and running between the tackles during 11-on-11 work."

Perhaps the most optimistic outlook comes from long-term Lions reporter Mike O’Hara of

"On a number of plays, Ameer Abdullah accelerated through openings and changed direction without breaking stride. Those are positive signs that Abdullah has recovered from the foot injury that sidelined him for the last 14 games of last season. A year ago, he wore a red jersey in practice throughout the offseason to protect him from contact while recovering from shoulder surgery. There is no red jersey this year."

The consensus appears to be that the Lions’ top tailback is rounding back into form, and it goes without saying that this is a fantastic development for the organization. If Abdullah can re-capture the ability he flashed in his all-too-brief 2016 season, it could mean big things for a running game that ranked 30th in the NFL last year.

Put simply, if Abdullah can provide a spark to the rushing attack, it will take some of the pressure off Stafford and the passing game, while adding balance to an offense that was often one-dimensional a season ago. With other reliable backfield contributors like Theo Riddick (whose recovery from wrist injuries limited him in OTAs) and Zach Zenner in the mix, things are clearly looking up for the team’s fledgling ground game as Week 1 slowly approaches.

Next: Detroit Lions: Post-draft developments on offense

It’s far too soon to project what sort of season Ameer Abdullah will have in 2017. Furthermore, it’s impossible to guarantee that he will remain healthy for the entire campaign. What is undeniable is his talent and upside as a professional football player. If he can reach his lofty potential, the Detroit Lions could have a very successful season. The early reviews are very promising indeed, and the cause for optimism is legitimate.