Ameer Abdullah may stand all of 5-foot-9, 203 pounds, but he feels as though he could be the Lions’ best option in short-yardage situations and on the goal line.
Typically, those are situations where teams might rely on a bigger ball carrier who can fight for the hard yards. In fact, the Lions usually turned to Joique Bell, Zach Zenner or Theo Riddick when they got in close last season. Regardless, Abudllah is lobbying to be the every-down back in Detroit, and as he tells Dave Birkett for the Detroit Free Press, the second-year runner is perfectly suited for this line of work.
“I’ve always had a knack for scoring when I’m down there,” Abdullah said. “I know I didn’t get a lot of that work last year, but if you go back to college, in the red zone, if I got the ball I was scoring a lot. So I hope to get an opportunity down there to prove to these coaches, to whoever is evaluating me that I can and I will score in the red zone.”
To his point, Abdullah did score 19 touchdowns a senior at Nebraska and 39 over his four-year career, and not all of those were home runs. He punched plenty of those in from up close.
Of course, college football is a different animal in the NFL, and while there’s no reason a smaller back can’t be successful on the goal line, using what Abdullah did at Nebraska might not be the best judge.
Nor does Jim Caldwell sound like somebody who plans on turning Abdullah into a feature back this season. The Lions coach explains why he feels running back by committee might be the best approach.
“I think you have to spread it out a little bit,” Caldwell said. “Backs take a lot of hits in the ball game, and so I don’t anticipate (we have) that kind of a guy that gets 30 carries in a ball game. I don’t perceive that. Even though maybe it could happen, it wouldn’t happen very often.”
While the Lions do still have Zenner and Riddick, neither has the upside of Abdullah. A second-round draft pick a season ago, he should be able to do more than carry the ball between the 20s. How much of a look he’ll get on the goal line remains to be seen, but if either of his backfield mates struggle with that role, it could increase Abdullah’s chances.