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Lions expect Abdullah to improve in second season

The Detroit Lions witnessed a number of their young players take substantial leaps in production from their rookie season over the past few years.

Darius Slay, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron are just a few whose production saw a major uptick from their rookie campaign to their second year.

Who can we expect will join that list this season?

The "NFL Total Access" crew selected second-year running back Ameer Abdullah as one of their potential breakout stars at running back in 2016.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell told beat reporters at last month's NFL League Meetings that if any one of his second-year players were going to come back much better players in 2016, he'd expect Abdullah to be high on the list.

"Ameer works at it," Caldwell said. "If there's anyone who's going to improve, he's going to improve."

Abdullah, a second-round pick by Detroit last year, averaged six yards per attempt in the preseason a year ago and took his first carry in the NFL to the house for a 24-yard touchdown.

But things didn't stay on that path very long for Abdullah. He ended up rushing for just 225 yards on 63 carries the first eight games of the season. He lost reps when fumbling became an issue early on.

"I feel like I showed some flashes last year, but in this league you can't show flashes," Abdullah said in a recent SiriusXM NFL Radio interview. "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."

Things started to come around for Abdullah and the Lions' run game the second half of the season, however. The Lions shook up their coaching staff and started to get more consistent play from their offensive line and running backs.

Abdullah averaged 4.65 yards per carry over the second half of the season as the Lions saw their rushing average increase by 28 yards per game over the last eight games.

"I think he was able to (improve) during the course of the year," Caldwell said of Abdullah's rookie campaign. "He had some peaks and valleys, but obviously, I think he's going to be OK."

Abdullah, Riddick, newly signed veteran Stevan Ridley and fellow second-year back Zach Zenner will compete for playing time in the backfield for Detroit this season.

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