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Lions running attack hobbled, sputtering

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Lions running back Theo Riddick looks for a route to the end zone but falls just short in the third quarter with Bears' Adrian Amos defending.

Allen Park — Led by second-year running back Ameer Abdullah, the Lions’ run game got off to a promising start and averaged 126.5 yards through the first two weeks.

But after Abdullah was placed on injured reserve following a foot injury in Week 2, the production has fallen off. With Theo Riddick taking over the No. 1 role, the Lions have mustered 50 and 66 yards rushing, respectively, in Weeks 3 and 4.

“I just think that we just have not been as consistent in terms of our blocks up front, key blocks,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Not necessarily just means the offensive line, I’m talking about tight ends, if there’s a back in there responsible for getting the block going, or a receiver. There’s just been a couple things there that have been slowing us down, we just have not been able to, kind of, get on track doing like we were doing the first couple of weeks.

“We were able to find some seams and cracks in there, we’ve got to get back to. We’ve got to make sure that we’re patient with it, that’s the key. It’s not easy, it’s a lot of dirty work involved, right now we’re not doing it well enough.”

Rookie Dwayne Washington, who assumed the No. 2 role behind Riddick, suffered an ankle injury midway through the second quarter and didn’t return in Sunday’s loss to the Bears.

Zach Zenner, who was inactive the first two games, saw his first action in place of Washington, playing five offensive snaps in the second half and finishing with 34 yards of total offense. Zenner had a carry on third-and-goal at the Chicago 1 in the third quarter and was immediately stopped for a 2-yard loss. On the Lions’ next possession, Zenner took a short pass for 22 yards and followed it up with runs of 10 and four yards later in the drive.

With Washington’s status for this weekend’s game against the Eagles unclear, that leaves the Lions with only two healthy running backs – Riddick and Zenner.

On Monday, the Lions signed former Buccaneers running back Mike James to the practice squad. James spent the past three seasons with the Tampa Bay organization and the majority of 2015 on the team’s practice squad.

For his three-year career, James has 332 yards rushing on 79 carries and 11 receptions for 38 yards in 19 games, including three starts.

In order to make room on the practice squad, the Lions released running back George Winn (Southfield-Lathrup).