Fumbles cut into Abdullah’s workload at running back

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Finally, someone with the Lions acknowledged that rookie running back Ameer Abdullah’s diminished role on offense is due to his four fumbles this season.

“When you feel secure that the guy you’re handing the ball to is going to have it at the end of the play, and it’s not going to end up on the ground, it’s a lot easier to call that run for that guy,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said Thursday.

Now, the coaches have to determine how to give Abdullah a chance to earn back their trust as the run game continues to struggle week after week, ranking 32nd in the NFL in yards per game (66.9) and attempts (176).

Abdullah leads the Lions with 68 carries for 240 yards, and his 3.5-yard average is significantly better than the 2.6-yard average of Joique Bell.

Yet, Bell led the Lions in carries the past two games as Abdullah had just one in Week 8 and five in Week 10.

“He’s a productive running back,” Cooter said of Bell. “He’s productive in the run game.”

And Abdullah declined to say what he expects his role to be moving forward.

“Ask Jim Bob,” he said. “I’m sure there’s going to be opportunities. What I am getting right now is an extensive role on kickoff return and making sure I’m doing the best on that. And maybe that might be the way.

Abdullah has taken advantage of his chances on special teams. He had a 104-yard kickoff return against the Packers last Sunday, though he called it “the worst feeling” to be tackled at the 1. He also leads the NFL with a 31.9-yard average on his returns.

“My confidence isn’t dropping because I know my teammates are going to (support) me,” he said. “I know they’re going to have my back through any situation, and we’re preparing to stack these wins.”

Obviously, it’s harder to win games with turnovers, and Abdullah has fumbled four times this year, including offense and special teams. The Lions lost just one of those fumbles, and he hasn’t put the ball on the ground in the past three games.

Cooter said Abdullah has to grow in all facets of the game, including ball security.

“It’s a process with every running back, and Ameer had a rough start to the season,” Cooter said. “He’s fighting his way back through that, but it’s a difficult process. There’s a lot of big, strong guys in this league doing everything they can to knock that thing out. He can certainly build confidence by controlling that thing a little bit better.”