The Lions took running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round of this year’s draft in hopes that he could provide them with more offensive punch than they got from recent high picks Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best.
Count defensive coordinator Teryl Austin among those who think that Abdullah has what it takes to fulfill those hopes. Austin said Saturday that his unit has found it difficult to stop Abdullah during training camp practices.
“We can’t even tackle that guy,” Austin said, via the Detroit Free Press. “We can’t even touch him. He’s like grasping at air.”
Running backs coach Curtis Modkins took a more reserved stance on his charge, saying that while Abdullah shows “unique ability” there is a difference between impressing in practices and impressing against opposing defenses on Sundays. That’s certainly true and Abdullah says he has “so much I have to improve” before he’ll thrive in the NFL, but the team wouldn’t have used a second-round pick on him if they weren’t confident he could do so.
With Joique Bell still working his way back to practice after knee and Achilles surgeries, Abdullah should get plenty of opportunities in the preseason to show whether his ability to make people miss translates beyond friendly competition with the Lions defense. His first crack comes against the Jets this week, the story went on to say. Abdullah is ranked 30th on our list and is getting drafted around the fifth round. Abdullah probably isn't an every down back but can be productive from a fantasy standpoint in the Lions offense if he takes over Reggie Bush's old role.
"Ronnie has played at different times, in different amounts, but when you're the starting back and running out there in pregame warm-ups as a starting back, it's a different hat that you wear," said Manning, who is but a quarter of the way through his third season in Denver. "There's no question he has a burst that is pretty unique when he gets the ball in his hands. It's our job to give him space."
Initially, the Broncos thought Montee Ball was headed for injured reserve with a designation to return after eight games. That's why the team brought in veteran running backs Mikel Leshoure and LaRod Stephens-Howling for workouts Tuesday.
But a magnetic resonance imaging exam offered hope Ball might miss only a month or so with his groin strain. The Broncos added running back depth Wednesday by signing former Oakland Raider Jeremy Stewart to their practice squad, but otherwise the team is planning on going with Hillman, C.J. Anderson and Juwan Thompson until further notice. Thompson, a rookie, sat out practice Wednesday with a sore left knee.
"You can't do it with just one back in today's game, so we expect C.J. to do his job, Juwan to be ready," Manning said.
We expect that Anderson and Thompson will be in the mix, especially if Hillman struggles early, which seems likely given the state of the Bronco running game (not good) and the quality of the Jets' rush defense (very good, though Branden Oliver torched it in Week 5). Owners should keep in mind that Hillman has had fumbling problems in the past, and HC John Fox is not afraid to bench a player if he can't keep hold of the ball. Consider Hillman a low-end RB2/flex type this week.
If Richardson can't improve upon his preseason average of 2.6 yards per carry, Grigson will need to explore alternatives beyond injury-prone veteran Ahmad Bradshaw and unproven Dan "Boom" Herron.
Leshoure would provide more depth at running back after Vick Ballard's season-ending injury. He could also push Richardson to be the primary back if T-Rich continues to disappoint. Bradshaw would still be the most talented back in Indianapolis, but his neck injury makes him unreliable as a bell cow.
Saturday, August 30, 2014, 10:55am
RB Mikel Leshoure still sees himself as a featured back, but that was never going to happen in Detroit.
Now he's free to pursue a featured role wherever he likes.
The Lions have informed Leshoure he'll be among their 22 cuts Saturday, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Friday, August 8, 2014, 2:06pm
And it appears he'll play quite a bit Saturday night when Detroit opens the preseason with a game against the Cleveland Browns.
But Leshoure likely won't be a significant contributor once the season begins, with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell entrenched atop the depth chart. Theo Riddick almost certainly will be the No. 3, with his growing role in the passing game and contributions on special teams.
Why is he playing so much and getting first team reps - the story says it's possible the Lions are looking to deal him, something that's actually been talked about long before this. Now that Riddick appears to have passed him on the depth chart, the Lions are better off moving him for something else.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014, 7:59pm
This may not mean much, but it takes a bit of wind out of Riddick's sails. The team could also be setting up Leshoure for a feature role in a preseason game only to drive up his trade value.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 11:02am
But he says he never wavered in his belief that he can be a productive NFL tailback, if given an opportunity. And he says he'll find that opportunity this year, whether it's in Detroit or elsewhere.
"I feel like I'll get a role somewhere," he said, when asked after practice Monday whether he'd prefer to move on if he can't land a job in Detroit. "So I'm going to think about that right now."
Leshoure was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, then led the Lions in rushing a year later. But he plummeted down the depth chart in 2013.
Monday, June 16, 2014, 1:41pm
Lions RBs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell aren’t going anywhere. Theo Riddick was one of the stars of the spring and looks like he’ll end up having a role in the offense beyond special teams this season. Mikel Leshoure missed part of spring workouts, so it is tough to say where his role will be this season, if he has one. But Detroit has its first three running backs pretty set right now unless it makes a free-agent move at the position.
"He's hard to guard one-on-one, so that is going to be good for us to have another piece of the puzzle," Reggie Bush said this weekend of Theo Riddick's role in the Lions' new offense, per Paula Pasche of The Oakland Press.
"He has a natural given ability to be able to make people miss in space," Bush said. "... He's far more advanced now compared to where I was as a rookie. I wasn't as good of a natural runner, it took me a couple years to get to that point and he already kinda has that. So, I'm sure you'll see him used a lot in the passing game this year and the running game."
While he won't usurp Bush's role, if the veteran gets injured during the course of the year, Riddick should get the opportunity to fill those shoes.
We like Joique Bell as a middle round value, but in the last week we've heard reports that both Mikel Leshoure and Theo Riddick are set for bigger roles in 2014, which would lead to fewer touches for Bell and Bush. However, the Saints (where new OC Joe Lombardi cut his teeth) generally used three RBs in a rotation, so it's hard to see Riddick on the field with a healthy Bush on the sideline.
"I can't tell you (what my role will be) during OTAs, but it looks like I'll be involved a little more than last year so far," Lions RB Mikel Leshoure told MLive this week. "As far as the role, I don't know. That could change weekly. But I think I'll be more involved."
If Leshoure can outshine second-year runner Theo Riddick, he's a solid candidate to see a role similar to what Chris Ivory played before his trade to the New York Jets. If that doesn't happen, Leshoure's time in Detroit is likely up.
We currently project Leshoure to carry the ball 31 times for 142 yards.
To expect Cowboys RB Lance Dunbar to exceed 50 catches might be a stretch. He caught only seven passes for 59 yards last season. There will only be so many passes to go around with Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Witten, Gavin Escobar and DeMarco Murray, who caught 53 passes for 353 yards last season.
But Dunbar will have a role.
"Passing game coordinator" Scott Linehan utilized Joique Bell extensively the last two seasons in Detroit. Bell saw 132 touches in 2012 and 219 touches in 2013 as the complementary back to Mikel Leshoure (2012) and Reggie Bush (2013). Dunbar's role is expected to grow, though DeMarco Murray is more of an all-around back than either Leshoure or Bush are.
Monday, May 26, 2014, 12:14pm
“I haven’t had an interest in trading Mikel,” Mayhew told beat writers over lunch. “I want to see him come in and perform and be the player he can be.”
Mayhew obviously wants to see Leshoure succeed here in Detroit and saw a a possible role for him back in March with the new offense being implemented. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi has come over from New Orleans and taken a lot of elements from that offense with him.
One of things that sticks out about the Saints offense is the way they rotate running backs and have multiple backs with different roles. Four running backs had at least 53 carries in the Saints offense last year.
“Guys that make plays will get carries,” Mayhew said. “You can go back to New Orleans’ offense, which is what encouraged me about Joe (Lombardi). Pierre Thomas had a role. (Darren) Sproles had a role. Mark Ingram had a role. At one point Chris Ivory had a role when he was down there with them. They found a way to utilize guys who could make plays.”
Friday, April 25, 2014, 11:40am
Coach Jim Caldwell clarified Leshoure is not injured, but rather was excused because of an off-field matter.
"He did have a personal issue, let's put it that way," Caldwell said after the Lions wrapped up camp Thursday afternoon. "We knew he was gone and what was happening. We were well aware of it."
With new coach Jim Caldwell, and especially offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, there may be a more pronounced emphasis on the Lions' run game and perhaps roles for more than two backs. Caldwell has had successful run offenses in Indianapolis and Baltimore, as did Lombardi in New Orleans.
“If you go back and look at what the Saints did, they used multiple backs in a lot of different ways,” Mayhew said. “I’m encouraged about that for [Mikel Leshoure]. It could bode well for him in terms of getting more playing time and having a more specific, defined role in our offense.
If Jim Schwartz, Scott Linehan and Co. are back, chances are Leshoure won’t be. He has wasted away on the bench this year and doesn’t fit Linehan’s vision for a running back in his offense.
If wholesale changes are made, Leshoure could find himself back in the Lions’ good graces again.
“I just want to be somewhere they’re going to feed me the rock and I can go eat, man,” Leshoure said. “That’s it. They could be the worst team in the NFL.... Just give me the rock. I feel like I just need the ball. Even here, we don’t really run the ball here.”
Leshoure has a career 3.7 YPC, so it's doubtful that teams will be lining up to offer Leshoure a feature back role. He should be able to find a job as a primary backup, however.
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