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NOTEBOOK: Abdullah & Riddick ready for season opener

It was just a snippet. A small sample size, if you will.

Lions fans got to see the potential of having Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick healthy and playing together for just six quarters last season.

Though it was just a small sample size, it was enough to have Detroit fans and Lions coaches excited about the potential of having the dynamic duo back together and healthy to start the season.

In the only full game the pair played together last year, Abdullah and Riddick combined for 228 total rushing and receiving yards, and scored three touchdowns in a season-opening win in Indianapolis.

Abdullah suffered a foot injury the following week, and Riddick's season ended prematurely as well due to a wrist injury.  

But what kind of production could we see from these two over an extended period of time?

"We always talk about it," Abdullah admitted this week.

He and Riddick have become very good friends over the past couple seasons, which makes them a unique one-two punch at the running back position, per Abdullah.

"It's great to have a friend, much more than just a teammate in Theo," Abdullah said. "A guy who wants to see you do well. Sometimes in this league it's so competitive. Sometimes you have some ill motives sometimes.

"But there is nothing (between Riddick and Abdullah) that is ill motives. That's such a genuine connection we have. (I) want to see him do well, he wants to see me do well and we understand that we're only as good as when we're on the field together both healthy."

We could potentially see the two on the field at the same time more often this season. Detroit lists both players as starters. Imagine the pressure that would put on a defense, especially in the pass game, having to deal with two dynamic multipurpose backs at once.

"Explosive. Both those backs, he and (Theo) Riddick, they can hit a home run on every play and you got to have them up," Arizona head coach Bruce Arians said in a conference call this week. "Ameer, one missed tackle and he can take it to the house, and same thing with Riddick. In pass coverage, you better know where you're going."

Having both Abdullah and Riddick healthy to begin the season gives Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter a lot of options on the play sheet. For Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher, they're a lot to worry about.

Abdullah is excited about what the two can offer this Lions offense, hopefully over an extended period of time.

"We don't really expect to be the same players as we were in 2016," Abdullah said. "We want to be better and I feel we are better."


Lions free safety Glover Quin could find himself between a rock and a hard place on a few occasions Sunday playing against an explosive Cardinals offense.

What makes them so difficult to defend for an opposing safety is they have one of the most dynamic running backs in the league in space in David Johnson, but also have receivers on the outside who can fly in J.J. Nelson and John Brown. For a safety, that's a particularly tough duo to defend.

"It's a tricky equation," Quin explained this week. "A lot of running backs in this league, you just don't want to be in space with these guys. These are the best runners in the world. You want to try and limit the space just in case he does break through the line and you have to make those tackles.

"But then you can't play too shallow because they have speed guys on the outside that are rolling. It's tricky. It'll take a lot of studying and a lot of preparation."

The Cardinals don't just use those receivers on the outside as decoys, either. They threw 68 passes last year that covered at least 21 yards in the air, the sixth most in the NFL last season. They only completed 15 of them, but they take their shots.

"I think the biggest thing is even though we know those are coming, we just got to make sure we keep the ball in front of us, don't let the ball get over our heads," Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. "If they catch a ball, if they catch a 15, 20-yard ball here and there, it's going to happen, our big thing is to tackle it.

"Don't let #14 (Nelson) or #12 (Brown) get behind us deep, and if we do that and we do our deal, we play solid run defense, I think we're going to be right in the game at the end and have an opportunity to win it."


Both of Detroit's nickel cornerbacks – Quandre Diggs and DJ Hayden – had good training camps and preseasons.

Diggs became the full-time starter at the nickel last year, but both head coach Jim Caldwell and Austin said Thursday that Hayden will play Sunday.

Much like Austin does with reserve safety Miles Killebrew, he could tailor some defensive packages that put Hayden into the game to utilize some of the things he does well.

"Oh, he's going to be in there," Caldwell said. " Yeah. He'll be playing. As you guys know, we have a number of different packages and things that we do. He'll play for us. Very, very solid camp. He played well. He keeps coming along every day, little bit better."

Hayden can play both inside and outside, which gives the Lions a lot of options with him.

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