Former Big Ten RB's make NFL debuts
If you were paying attention to the NFL this weekend, you probably couldn’t help but notice a few Big Ten rookie running backs making their presences felt.
Of the five rookie tailbacks from the conference, two of them were the outright starters and one of the guys who wasn’t scored on his first carry. Here’s a complete update on each B1G running back’s opening weekend in the NFL.
Ameer Abdullah, Detroit
If you didn’t fear Ameer before, you certainly did after watching what he did on his first NFL carry. The former Nebraska I-back juked Eric Weddle out of his shoes and scampered in for a 24-yard touchdown.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) September 13, 2015
The Lions, however, decided not to use Abdullah much in the running game after that. He still rushed for 50 yards on seven carries, which was significantly better than starter Joique Bell’s 14 yards on six carries. Perhaps Abdullah’s most impressive play came in the passing game, where he turned a simple swing pass into a 36-yard gain.
— NFL (@NFL) September 13, 2015
He caught all four of his targets for 44 yards and actually had a more productive receiving day than Calvin Johnson. Go figure. Abdullah even broke loose for a 48-yard kick return. While the lack of carries might be frustrating considering his obviously superior skill set, the Lions are using the former Husker all over the field. To be clear, he’s not Reggie Bush 2.0. Abdullah is already better.
Melvin Gordon, San Diego
While Abdullah thrived out of a backup role, Gordon was limited in a starting role. The former Wisconsin back made his debut on the same field as Abdullah, though with slightly different results. He was trucked in the backfield on his first carry and he lost a fumble later in the game. But those were the only lowlights of Gordon’s highly anticipated debut. The former first-round pick flashed his big-play ability when he tumbled to the ground and somehow kept his balance to bounce up and into the end zone.
Melvin Gordon is going off! pic.twitter.com/uk2cNxroKl
— CT14 (@CTessena14) September 13, 2015
Unfortunately the play was called back because his elbow tapped the ground, but it was impressive nonetheless. Mike McCoy said that he was pleased with Gordon’s 14-carry, 51-yard debut. His ability to get to the second level and make people miss was why he was a first-round pick. Danny Woodhead vultured two touchdowns and will be the guy the Chargers will use the most in pass protection. The quicker Gordon masters that aspect, the quicker he’ll get feature back work.
Even though Abdullah and Gordon were counterparts on Sunday, the two exchanged jerseys after the game.
— Flash | 28™ | A01 (@Melvingordon25) September 14, 2015
Tevin Coleman, Atlanta
The former Indiana tailback was the starter on Monday Night Football for the Falcons, and looked the part. He finished the night with 20 carries for 80 yards behind a subpar offensive line. More significant was the fact that Coleman looked considerably better than backfield mate Devonta Freeman, who was held to 18 yards on 10 carries. It was clear that the Falcons have a lot of faith in Coleman. Like Gordon, Coleman’s biggest issue might be in pass protection. He wasn’t much of a receiver at IU, and will likely be more of a two-down back until he develops that part of his game. In an offense that figures to score its fair share of points, Coleman appears to have a significant role carved out.
Jeremy Langford, Chicago
Well, at least Langford got in the box score. He had one carry for one yard in the Bears’ 31-23 loss to the Packers. The fourth-round pick was out there on the first play of the second series, but that was it. Matt Forte ran for 141 yards and Jacquizz Rodgers was used as the change-of-pace back. That’s somewhat surprising considering how well Langford played in the preseason. We knew it was going to take time for the former Michigan State back to earn some carries in Chicago. If Forte performs like he did on Sunday, the opportunities will be few and far between for Langford in his rookie season.
David Cobb, Titans
Unfortunately, the former Minnesota workhorse is stuck on injured reserve until Week 9 with a calf injury. Cobb did say recently that he’s coming along sooner than he imagined and he feels like he could be back practicing in the next few weeks. It’s a frustrating development for Cobb, who walked into one of the more ideal situations for a rookie running back. Bishop Sankey didn’t do anything with the job as a rookie last year. The Titans signed Terrance West just before the start of the season because of Cobb’s injury. It might take Cobb a little while to earn a significant share of the workload when he comes back.