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NOTEBOOK: Keeping Abdullah & Riddick healthy key for run game

Posted Aug 7, 2017

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from training camp practice including improving the run game, Matt Prater's kicking routine and more.

Ameer Abdullah was back to work Monday continuing the grind that is training camp after getting a “maintenance” day off Sunday. Abdullah joked after Sunday’s practice about getting the veteran treatment in just his third season, but the move makes a lot of sense from the Lions' perspective.

With Abdullah in the lineup last year, the run game was efficient, and he and Theo Riddick proved to be a dynamic duo both running the football and catching it out of the backfield.

Without Abdullah, who was injured in the second half of Detroit’s Week 2 loss to Tennessee, the Lions struggled to consistently run the ball. They finished 30th last season in rushing.

Abdullah said Sunday that the foot injury is 100 percent in his rearview mirror, and he’s looking forward to a very productive 2017 campaign.

“We want to win and in order to win we know we need to add that running game as well,” he said. “With the moves we’ve made bringing in guys up front, and me and Theo getting healthy, I expect this running game to be at its best. I think it’s going to be a good year.”

Abdullah and Riddick are terrific in space, and Abdullah says finding ways to get them into space is one of the keys to Detroit’s run game.

“Being able to take advantage of the edge,” he said. “That’s something that I think we’re going to do a good job of this year, controlling the edge of the line of scrimmage.

“Getting outside of defenders and making quick decisions just in order to get those four- and five-yard carries that we need to get the chains moving in those key late-in-the-game moments. I feel like that’s what makes an offense dynamic, just having that balance between capturing the edge and just being efficient between the tackles.”

Abdullah also said offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has added some elements to this offense in an attempt to better get both he and Riddick in space.

“He understands he’s deadly out there,” Abdullah said of Riddick’s ability to make defenders miss in space. “If he’s in space that’s a win every single time. You can count on it. That’s a guy I feel like he doesn’t get enough notoriety around this league.

"You hear guys, obviously Shady (LeSean) McCoy, guys who are really good at making guys miss in space, but I think Theo Riddick is right up there, if not better.”

With both Abdullah and Riddick healthy, there’s a certain level of expectation that Detroit can be a much more balanced and explosive offense. It’s part of the reason we’re seeing Abdullah get a maintenance day and Riddick wearing a red no-contact jersey at practice. The Lions are doing their best to keep both players healthy, fresh and ready to go for the start of the regular season.

“We are two talented backs and when we get the ball in our hands we just want to do something with it,” Riddick added.  

PRATER TIME

Matt Prater looked to be in mid-season form at Detroit’s mock game Saturday, connecting on long field goals of 56 and 55 yards before missing a 55-yarder late in a rushed situation.

Prater has an offseason and training camp routine he’s perfected over 10 years, and he’s stuck with what’s worked for him heading into year 11.

“It’s more quality than quantity,” Prater said. “You try to limit the amount of kicks you do because you can wear yourself out just like a baseball pitcher throwing 100 fastballs.”

He tries to kick 30-50 balls three times a week.

Prater connected on a career-high 31 field goals last year, with seven from beyond 50 yards.

OUTSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Renowned NFL super scout Gil Brandt’s comments on some of the Detroit Lions’ high draft picks the last two years make it apparent that he has a high regard for general manager Bob Quinn.

Brandt singled out 2016 first-round pick Taylor Decker and two picks from this year – middle linebacker Jarrad Davis (first round) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (third) -- for praise in his visit to training camp this week as part of his tour for the Sirius XM NFL radio show he hosts with Alex Marvez.

But what Brandt said about Quinn topped everything.

“Bob Quinn to me is like Tom Landry, except one’s a coach and one’s an administrator,” Brandt said.

Landry won two Super Bowls in his 29 seasons as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys (1960-1988), and Brandt was chief of personnel in that storied era.

Brandt gives Quinn high marks on two fronts – building his management staff, and player personnel acquisitions.

Brandt also thinks the Lions did well in free agency this year by signing tackle Rick Wagner and guard T.J. Lang to solidify the offensive line.

After taking over in January of 2015, Quinn scored high in Brandt’s evaluation in building his front-office staff, which Brandt says is critically important.

“He’s a tremendously bright individual," Brandt said. “He’s able to foresee the future. He has an understanding of coaching. He understands scouting. He understands people. The only people he brings in, in my estimation, are the top people.

“He’s trying to build from the top down and not make any rash decisions. To me, the guy is off the charts. One thing you’ve got to understand is, this place was not very well put together when he got the job.

“I think the Lions hit a home run with the bases loaded (hiring Quinn).”

PRACTICE REPORT

Players still on PUP: DE Ziggy Ansah, T Taylor Decker and T Corey Robinson

Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin

Not practicing Monday: Tight end Eric Ebron, guard T.J. Lang, receiver Ryan Spadola, linebacker Thurston Armbrister, running back Mike James, tight end Brandon Barnes, cornerback Des Lawrence, linebacker Paul Worrilow, defensive end Brandon Copeland, tackle Cornelius Lucas and defensive end Cornelius Washington.

Linebacker Nick Bellore walked off slowly during a team drill with a trainer and did not return.

Mike O’Hara contributed to this report