Orlando, Fla. – The rave reviews continue to come in for LeGarrette Blount, the Detroit Lions’ newest running back. But the team’s brass, namely general manager Bob Quinn, isn’t closing the door on continued contributions from last year’s starter, Ameer Abdullah.
“My first year, Ameer had the injury, so he really didn’t do much,” Quinn said. “Last year he was still kind of working through it, got back and we felt he was 100 percent. You can ask Ameer, he didn’t have a good enough year in terms of anyone’s expectations, his own, or mine or the team. I think I’ve got big hopes for him this season, that he comes back, and has a great offseason and is ready to roll.”
A second-round pick in 2015 by the team’s previous front office, Abdullah is one of 10 Martin Mayhew draft selections remaining on the roster. The 5-foot-9, 203-pound ball carrier showed early signs of a breakout in 2016, Quinn’s first season at the helm, popping off for 101 yards on his first 18 carries before suffering a season-ending foot injury in the first half of the second game.
Abdullah was named the starter well before last season began, but squandered the opportunity, rushing for 552 yards on 165 carries (3.3 per attempt). He ultimately ceded playing time down the stretch, receiving no more than eight carries the final four games.
Enter Blount, a 250-pound bulldozer coming off his second Super Bowl victory in as many years. He will provide Detroit with the capable power element they’ve lacked the past couple years.
Blount, 31, spent last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, where he averaged 4.4 yards per carry for the champs. He left on a high note, rushing for 90 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.
“He came in and really gelled with the room, the running back room,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said at the coaches’ breakfast Tuesday. “He was in our offseason program right away and he really wanted to sort of solidify that. We wanted that, that bigger back, at the time. Got him in there and he did some outstanding things for us.
“They’re getting a big, physical guy,” Pederson said. “They’re getting a guy that has still quite a bit left in the tank. The way our situation is, right now, it’s a little bit harder to keep that many guys. We have some young players that we like, but they’re getting a dynamic back and good guy.”
Lions coach Matt Patricia, who spent parts of four seasons with Blount in New England, knows exactly the kind of guy the Lions are getting in Blount. Despite being on opposite sides of the ball, the two cultivated a strong relationship off the field, and that bond helped lure the player to Detroit this offseason.
Patricia said Blount will bring culture, personality and toughness to the Lions.
“He’s just a great person to be around,” Patricia said. “From that standpoint, it’s a long hard season, it’s a grind, so it’s always good to have that guy that can walk in the building and make everybody pick back up for a second or two before you get back to work. He’s great about all that stuff.
“On the field, all the things he brings kind of speak for themselves. He’s a guy that’s extremely hard to tackle. He’s a large man coming downhill, very fast, but he also has the ability to get outside and get to the edge. Now, if you can get him in those situations, it’s a whole different level of problem.”
The Lions could have used Blount’s skill set the past two years, when he was a free agent each offseason. Quinn, who was also intimately familiar with Blount having worked in New England front office when the back was initially acquired in a trade, said the Lions made an effort to sign him last offseason, but implied a lack of mutual interest.
“It takes two sides to do a deal, like I always say,” Quinn said. “We did talk to LaGarrette last offseason, as well, just didn’t work out for whatever reason. But I think both of us are excited to get him here, kind of add a different element to the running game that we haven’t had and hopefully he has a lot of production.”
With Blount in the fold, Quinn and Patricia are excited about the versatility they have in the backfield. And there will be an opportunity to add more in the draft, where a deep class of backs awaits teams in need of talent.
If the Lions do go that route, it will be interesting to see if it changes Quinn’s plans for Abdullah. The GM previously said DeAndre Levy and Eric Ebron had future roles with the team before cutting both in the offseason. It’s a reminder tomorrow isn’t guaranteed in the NFL.
Regardless of what the backfield rotation looks like, the important thing is that group finally adds long-needed balance to the offense.
“I think it’s the way you threaten the defense the most, Patricia said. “We need to be balanced from that standpoint.”