This is the time for last-minute roster-tweaking, and for veterans, a last chance to find a chair before training camps begin.
For veteran wide receiver Anquan Boldin, that means another trip to Detroit, after his visit in June.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the Lions are finalizing a one-year deal with the veteran wideout today.
Boldin has some familiarity with Lions coach Jim Caldwell from their days together with the Ravens, and he gives the Lions the kind of physical receiver they may have lacked after the retirement of Calvin Johnson this offseason, the story pointed out. Boldin will remain behind free agent signing Marvin Jones and Golden Tate on the depth chart but may see time in three-WR sets.
The biggest key to the Lions backfield success is the development of Ameer Abdullah. As a rookie last season, he was plagued by ball security issues early in the campaign, but closed out the year strong. He averaged 4.7 yards per attempt and put the ball on the ground just once across the final eight games. That's a stat line that should excite. Now it boils down to a smooth recovery from offseason shoulder surgery and if he can handle an increased workload.
Theo Riddick is what he is, a below-average runner, but elite receiver out of the backfield. He's a key offensive cog after catching 80 passes last season, but expecting significant growth as a ball carrier borders on unreasonable.
There are some threats to Abdullah's workload, but this particular writer doesn't even predict one of them - Stevan Ridley - makes the roster. That would leave Zach Zenner as perhaps the main threat to take away carries. It's a situation to keep an eye on because depending who makes the roster, Abdullah's value could rise and fall greatly.
The Detroit Lions announced Sunday that the following players were placed on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List:
Pettigrew tore his ACL in December. Pettigrew won’t be able to practice with the team until he’s activated from the list and could miss up to six weeks of the regular season if he's not ready. Some thought RB Ameer Abdullah could be placed on the list after shoulder surgery, however he was not one of the three names.
The report comes from a Texans blog which presumably has some connections with those in the know in the Foster camp. Obviously, he'll change the fantasy landscape wherever he lands, though he's coming off of a torn Achilles. Jay Ajayi would be the big loser in Miami, though Foster may remain in a backup capacity as he recovers from his injury.
Abdullah went through his fair share of ups and downs as a rookie and finished with 597 rushing yards (4.2 average) and two touchdowns.
I thought he showed a high level of maturity and dedication in an interview with Sirius NFL Radio this offseason.
“I feel like I showed some flashes last year, but in this league you can’t show flashes,” he said. “You have to be consistent. That definitely had a lot to do with growing pains.
“It also had a lot to do with me being immature as a player coming straight from college and not understanding what kind of preparation and mental focus it took for such a long amount of time.
“I know I have a lot to give to this team and a lot to give to this league. I know I can be a good back, but it starts with those little things I mentioned earlier.”
I’d be pretty surprised if we don't see a much-improved Abdullah in year two.
After the team's Week 9 bye, and with new-OC Jim Bob Cooter calling the plays, Abdullah averaged 11.5 touches for 55.3 yards and 0.12 TD per game. He averaged 4.65 YPC in that span, and the running game as a whole improved considerably under Cooter (+6.75 carries, +27.5 yards and +0.37 TD per game). Joique Bell saw 9.4 touches per game during that stretch, and that work is up for grabs now that Bell is gone. If healthy, Abdullah will probably lead the Lions in carries and yards, and may be a post-hype sleeper if his touches increase significantly. But Theo Riddick will serve as the primary pass-catcher out of the backfield, and Stevan Ridley and Zach Zenner could eat into Abdullah's early-down and short-yardage touches, so Abdullah's upside is somewhat capped.
Lions TE Eric Ebron didn’t play much football the first two weeks of OTAs, sidelined with an injury. He returned this week and immediately slid into his position in Jim Bob Cooter's offense. It’s a role he believes will be “a lot more exciting” than it was his first two seasons under Joe Lombardi.
Ebron is going to have to take more responsibility, too. With Calvin Johnson's retirement, he becomes one of the team’s primary mismatches for opponents. When he was drafted, he was supposed to be another option for Matthew Stafford. Now, he’ll likely line up with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate as a primary one.
“I see him hopefully taking strides this year,” Cooter said. “And making those big strides.”
Ebron caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last season and finished as the #13 TE in PPR formats, though he was actually worse under then-interim and now-official offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. He averaged 13.0 FP (PPR) through the first seven weeks, and 7.3 FP once Cooter was promoted. With Calvin Johnson gone, there are a lot of moving parts in Detroit, so this doesn't mean that Ebron won't produce similar (or better) numbers in his third season.
Monday, June 13, 2016, 11:41am
The offense being installed in Allen Park this offseason is very different than the one the Lions ran even the second half of last season.
“I think it's exactly what it is, we started from scratch,” receiver Golden Tate said after an open OTA practice last week.
“The calls are different. The signals are different. From top to bottom it’s all new and we’re just taking it day by day. I think our guys are doing a great job staying in their book and trying to learn it.”
There are obviously some elements that were put in place on the fly the second half of last year that have been adopted into the new package. But this has truly been a full reinstall, according to Tate. And like anything new, it takes time to perfect.
It would explain some of the sloppiness, penalties, missed assignments and balls hitting the ground on offense over the course of the two open OTA practices the last two weeks.
The offense was more productive once Jim Bob Cooter took over in Week 8, averaging 2.24 points per drive compared to just 1.54 points per drive in the first seven games. Total yardage and number of plays remained about the same, but there was a larger commitment to the run (+4.8 rushing attempts per game). Passing yardage declined (-26.5), but touchdowns were up (+0.36) and interceptions were way down (-0.99). Given Tate's comments about the new install, it sounds as if the offense is a work in progress, and the team will have to get new WR Marvin Jones up to speed.
Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in January and could miss the rest of the off-season, a person with knowledge of the procedure but not authorized to speak about it publicly told the Free Press today.
Lions.com writer Tim Twentyman was asked via Twitter who will lead the team in catches. His response:
I think it will be hard for Theo Riddick to reach 80 catches again this season. Teams will scheme hard against him.
I expect Eric Ebron’s stats to take another significant increase in year three, but the 90-catch range is probably a bit high for him.
In the end, I expect Tate and Marvin Jones to be right there, with Tate edging Jones out.
Jones had a career-high 65 catches in 2015, so it's tough to see him pushing Tate, who has back-to-back seasons with 90-plus catches. Tate looks like a great value, especially in PPR formats.
With Calvin Johnson settling into retirement, the Lions will need more from their running game this fall. Ameer Abdullah is the No. 1 back, and if he conquers his fumble problems, he should be in for a big season.
Abdullah had a disappointing rookie season after an electrifying preseason. Joique Bell is gone, but Theo Riddick is still around to handle third-down duties and the team signed Stevan Ridley to compete with Zach Zenner for carries behind Abdullah. The rookie had five fumbles on 168 touches, which is not a good fumble rate. As the article highlights, if Abdullah can prove he can hold onto the ball, he could surpass 250 touches in his second season.
Johnson’s future -- and the possibility of him returning -- came up in an interview Wednesday evening on the Mitch Albom Show on WJR-760 at the annual Taste of the Lions event at Ford Field.
“In my mind, I don’t see that happening,” Stafford said. “He retired because he wanted to. That’s it.”
It's up to Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron to pick up the slack. Over the last two seasons, in 11 games in which Johnson was questionable, doubtful or out, Tate averaged 6.6 receptions for 77 yards and 0.73 TD. Fantasy-wise, that’s about what Allen Robinson scored as the #6 WR in PPR formats in 2015. It’s also solid WR1 production in standard formats. Jones has averaged 3.6 receptions for 48 yards and 0.44 TD in his last 32 games. The 6’2” receiver has been especially good at catching touchdowns (14 in his last 32 games), so he'll likely have a large role in the red zone.
Andy Dalton is back to zipping the ball. He’s got no restrictions with his throwing thumb; he’s got one visit under his belt to passing specialist Dr. Tom House last month, and after watching two of his most established targets leave via free agency he got one back with a Super Bowl ring and knows Pro Bowlers A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert are already here.
“It would be tougher if it was my first or second year, but this is year six,” Dalton says Monday from Dallas of his revamped receiving corps. “It’s easier for me now than early on in my career. That is going to be fun. We’ve got these guys from the start; we’ve got to get them exactly where we want them to be.
The two guys who lockered next to him and meant so much to the passing game won’t be here two weeks from Monday when the Bengals gather for offseason workouts. Wide receiver Marvin Jones turned down at least the same $40 million to go to Detroit and Mohamed Sanu got No. 2 money in Atlanta when a No. 4 role loomed in Cincinnati.
Monday, April 4, 2016, 9:07pm
That means the Lions are looking for the supporting cast at WR to step up. Golden Tate will be featured prominently alongside Marvin Jones, and Detroit has acquired former Jet Jeremy Kerley to man the slot.
"We really expect him to come forward and be a little bit more of a prominent threat," coach Jim Caldwell said.
Jones was a sixth-round pick of the club in 2014, but experienced nerve pain following shoulder surgery that offseason and never played a down. He caught passes in four of the final five games including a 29-yard touchdown in a Week 16 win against San Francisco. Caldwell went on to say Jones return ability and scat-back ability, where he can catch screens and take off and go.
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