Note: This is an opinion piece by MLive.com’s Nate Atkins
DETROIT — When you think of a breakout candidate, you’re trying to find the player ready to do something big that he hasn’t yet gotten the chance to do. When it comes to the Detroit Lions offense, those thoughts drift quickly to the player you might have picked the year before.
Ameer Abdullah was an easy choice for the Lions’ best candidate to break out on offense, which I submitted with my Lions scouting report in the Pro Football Weekly preview magazine and which PFW posted with all 32 breakout candidates Tuesday morning. I could explain it through different factors that came into play this offseason, like the signing of blocking tight end Darren Fells and the growth of the interior of the offensive line. But it’s easier if you just look at last season.
Abdullah carried the ball 18 times in games against the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans before a fluke foot injury ended his second season for good. Those runs went for 101 yards on 5.6 yards per carry, and the longest run was just 24 yards. That means without his best carry, his average was still 0.8 yards better than the 27th-ranked mark Detroit posted for the season.
The Lions couldn’t run the ball in Abdullah’s rookie season either, when he split carries in 16 games and they finished dead last in yards. But without him, they really never stood a chance. Theo Riddick was a receiver who lined up in the backfield. Dwayne Washington was a rookie still learning the position. Zach Zenner was a backup with good vision and simple overall abilities. The blocking wasn’t good enough to spring…
click here to read the rest of this story