The NFL season is inching closer. Through July, Shutdown Corner will examine three big questions for each NFL team as it heads to training camp.
Report date: July 24 for rookies, July 29 for veterans
Where: Allen Park, Michigan
1. Is Ameer Abdullah healthy and ready to help the running game?
Abdullah is a fine talent. If you watched last season’s “All or Nothing” you know the Arizona Cardinals desperately wanted him in the second round of the 2015 draft. After the Lions took Abdullah, the Cardinals settled on David Johnson in the third round. Abdullah was OK as a rookie and primed for a bigger role last season, but a Lisfranc foot injury limited him to two games last season. He says he was back to 100 percent early in the offseason, and in very limited duty last season he averaged 5.6 yards per rush and 11.4 yards per reception. Abdullah couldn’t sustain those averages over 16 games but he can be a huge help to a Lions running game that was practically invisible without him. He needs to get through camp healthy first, though.
2. Is Ezekiel Ansah healthy and ready to help the pass rush?
Notice a trend? Ansah established himself as one of the best defensive ends in football two seasons ago, picking up 14.5 sacks. Last season he had just two sacks in 13 games. Ansah was never right after suffering a high ankle sprain early in the season. Presumably Ansah has shaken that off, but no player is more important to the defense. Ansah is Detroit’s pass rush. Ansah has extra motivation to get back to his Pro Bowl level: He can become a free agent after this season. If he plays like he did in 2015, he’ll be one of the hottest players on the market. First, he needs to have a strong and healthy camp.
[Pressing Questions: Fantasy outlook on the Lions]
3. Is this finally Eric Ebron’s breakout season?
Ebron, who Lions fans can tell you was drafted 10th overall in 2014 two picks before Odell Beckham Jr., has steadily improved. But we haven’t seen the type of season that made him such an enticing prospect coming out of North Carolina. Ebron posted career highs with 61 catches and 711 yards last season, but only scored once. He had some very good games and disappeared for others. The next step for Ebron will be finding consistency, and also finding the end zone more often. Anquan Boldin scored eight times last season for Detroit and he’s gone, so there’s a great opportunity for Ebron to fill that red-zone void.
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