PHOENIX –Ameer Abdullah's sophomore season was off to a good start before a foot injury he suffered in the second half of the second game of the season derailed it last year.
The injury required surgery, and Abdullah wasn't able to return in time to help the Lions late in the season or in the playoffs. It was the second major surgery (shoulder) in the same calendar year for Abdullah.
"He's coming along rehabbing and he'll be able to, at some point in time, work out there on the field this spring. So we'll see where he is," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Abdullah at the league meetings. "Obviously, we know what he can do when he has the ball in his hands. He's quick. He's tough. He's effective. He'll bounce back and play well for us. He'll be fine."
But will he be asked to carry the load for the run game again this season? Lions general manager Bob Quinn said after the season that he was counting on Abdullah to carry the ball at least 200 times last season.
Abdullah ran for 101 yards on 18 carries and caught five passes for 57 yards before injuring his foot.
Caldwell still thinks Abdullah can be a workhorse-type running back, but he's also said it's good business practice to always be looking to upgrade and strengthen any position group via free agency or the draft, if the opportunity presents itself.
Quinn signed two of the top offensive lineman available in free agency (Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang) and a terrific blocking tight end in Darren Fells. They should all help improve the run game. It's unclear if Quinn has targeted the running back position as an area of need next, or if he feels the combination of Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington can get the job done with the improvements that have been made upfront.
Whatever the decision ultimately is, Caldwell knows how imperative it is for that aspect of this football team to dramatically improve. The Lions finished the season 30th in rushing last year and have supported quarterback Matthew Stafford with a 100-yard rusher just seven times since his arrival in Detroit in 2009.
"Without question we have to just keep trying to improve in that area," Caldwell said. "We have not been nearly as good as we'd like to be. We keep trying to make adjustments to improve in that area. It's something we talk about consistently, and we haven't gotten there yet. That's the fact of the matter.
"But do I think we can get there? Absolutely. Do I think it would help (Stafford) and our overall offense and overall team? Absolutely. And that's what we have to keep striving for."