Lions’ Den: a closer look at Detroit’s defense and Ameer Abdullah

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The Detroit Lions (3-1)  look to claim its fourth win of the season as they take on the Carolina Panthers (3-1)  In a Week 5 battle at Ford Field.


The Lions defense in no joke

Noah Goad

The Lions defense has certainly looked impressive, allowing the fourth fewest points per game this season. The secret is their ability to stop their opponents’ run game. Giving up the seventh fewest yards, the Lions rush defense will be a big factor in stopping a run heavy Carolina offense.

The Lions defense should get a boost in Week 5 from defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, and defensive end Anthony Zettel, who they took in the 2016 draft out of Penn State. The former sixth-round pick has emerged as a rising star this season.

Zettel has quickly become a sack machine for the Lions. He leads the team with [insert how many sacks he has]He’s also tied for the sixth most sacks in the NFL and quickly making a name for himself. Zettel should be key component in applying pressure to quarterback Cam Newton and limiting Carolina’s passing game.

Speaking of limiting Carolina’s passing game, quarterback Cam Newton is currently running out of reliable receivers to target. Tight end Greg Olsen has landed on the injury reserve with a broken right foot and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who’s struggled to stay healthy, hasn’t scored a touchdown this season.

Shutting down the passing game should not be much of a challenge for the Lions.

The Lions defense’s ability to capitalize on bad throws has been a huge plus. Safety Glover Quin and cornerback Darius Slay each have a pair of interceptions this season.

Seven picks is enough to put the Lions are  second in the NFL, interception-wise. Plus, the Detroit defense currently ranks first in the NFL in takeaways with 11. Cam Newton and the Carolina offense will have to make smart plays to limit the turnovers against the Lions to get the win.

Although Carolina put up 33 points in a victory over the New England Patriots in Week 4, their offense has been quite underwhelming thus far. The Panthers currently rank 20th in points scored per game this season, averaging just over 19 per game.

If we are just looking at the matchup, the Lions have one of the best defenses in the NFL and are matching up against the 20th ranked offense. The Lions should have little trouble in keeping the Carolina offense in check.


It’s time to fear Ameer

John Dolan

Seemingly ever since Barry Sanders’ abrupt retirement following the 1998 season, the Detroit Lions’ running game has been a national punchline.

Once the Lions’ most storied position, boasting big names such as Doak Walker, Billy Sims and the aforementioned Sanders over the years, the list of Lions running backs since Sanders’ shocking departure almost rivals Cleveland’s famous cast of misfit quarterbacks.

There were first-round picks Kevin Jones and Jahvid Best, a record-breaking NCAA back Kevin Smith, free agent signing Reggie Bush, second-round pick Mikel Leshoure, who battled drug addiction, and even a hometown hero Joique Bell. All were believed to be potential lead backs for the franchise, but the only thing these players have in common is none of them made it past their fifth year in Detroit.

So, when the 2015 NFL Draft rolled around and the Lions drafted Ameer Abdullah in the second round, it can be understood why Lions fans were hesitant in deeming him the back of the future.

Sure, he electrified in college (averaged over six yards per carry in both his junior and senior year), but he was small in stature at just 5-foot-9, and Lions fans had become accustomed to running backs flaming out after a few seasons. However, once training camp started, it seemed like Abdullah could be different from the rest.

As the Lions came out for training camp in 2015 in preparation for the upcoming season, rumblings began emerging about the type of player Abdullah really was.

“We can’t even tackle that guy,” Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin told the Detroit Free Press. “We can’t even touch him. He’s like grasping at air.”

After a strong preseason, Abdullah came into the 2015 regular season with boatloads of hype. So, what did he do with his first career NFL carry?

He did this:

After brief flashes during his injury-riddled first two seasons, like his first career carry vs. the San Diego Chargers or his 104-yard kickoff return vs. the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau, Abdullah seems to have finally gotten rid of the injury bug. Not only is he ready to head the Lions rushing attack, but also become that franchise player in the backfield the Lions have desperately sought after for the better part of two decades.

Last week in Minnesota, Abdullah finished just six yards shy of becoming the Lions’ first 100-yard rusher in a single game since 2013. Abdullah has a special knack, much like Sanders did, of turning two-yard losses into two-yard gains, or sometimes even more, illustrated in this video.

For what Abdullah lacks in truly blistering speed, his 4.55 40-yard-dash time isn’t bad, but it’s slower than many elite backs, he makes up for in agility and lateral quickness. Suddenly, those teammates who “couldn’t get a hand on him” during practice are turning into opposing defenders.

This Sunday vs. Carolina, Abdullah could have his work cut out for him going up against a run defense that allows only 87.2 yards per game. Yet, Minnesota’s defense only gives up 71.2 rushing yards per game, and Abdullah shattered that by himself last week going for 94.

Don’t rule out Abdullah having a breakout game at Ford Field on Sunday. Lead by the strongest offensive line the Lions have had in years and healthy feet to give him his signature jukes and cuts, I expect Abdullah to break the 100-yard threshold numerous times this season and become the ever-so-elusive franchise running back the Lions have needed for decades.