Former B1G backs learning tough lessons as NFL rookies
I expected B1G rookie running backs to tear up the NFL. Well, that hasn’t exactly happened yet.
Melvin Gordon and Ameer Abdullah haven’t run wild like they did last year while Tevin Coleman and Jeremy Langford spent their first seasons stuck behind two of the NFL’s best. David Cobb, on the other hand, hasn’t even suited up yet.
But there’s still half of the NFL season to go and if their college histories are any indication, the B1G NFL rookies will get it rolling down the stretch.
Melvin Gordon, Chargers — Well, we’re still waiting on the former Wisconsin back’s first breakout game. We’re even still waiting on his first touchdown. Surprising is the fact that Gordon — a big-play machine in college — doesn’t have a rush longer than 27 yards yet. He’s been playing behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines, which is a bit different than his days running behind that oversized Badger front. Still, his struggles have been all over the map. He has as many fumbles as any non-quarterback in the NFL. He rushed for 55-plus yards on one occasion. He isn’t trusted in pass protection, either, which hurt his reps in an offense that trailed for the majority of every game this season. The Chargers are too invested into the former first-round pick to pull the plug on him as a feature back, but Gordon needs a bust loose in the worst way.
Ameer Abdullah, Lions — Since the former Nebraska I-back busted loose on his first NFL carry, it’s been all downhill. And no, not in the good way. Since that 24-yard touchdown run to start his career, Abdullah has been held to just over three yards per carry without one rushing touchdown. Even more alarming is the fact that he has just three runs of 10-plus yards in that stretch. Abdullah hasn’t received a ton of work because he plays for an awful team that has just one comeback win to speak of. As a result, Abdullah only received double-digit carries twice in the first eight games. But Detroit is such a mess that it can’t even get Abdullah involved in the passing game. He hasn’t caught a ball in either of the last two weeks. Abdullah actually missed a route that led to an interception in the Lions’ 45-10 loss to the Chiefs. A lot of the similar issues that surfaced for Gordon in the first half also did for Abdullah. Luckily for both, neither are in backfields where another back emerged.
Tevin Coleman, Falcons — Speaking of guys that have been the unfortunate victim of an emerging backfield mate, Coleman fits that bill. The former Indiana back appeared to have the feature job locked down before he suffered a rib injury in Week 2. Then Devonta Freeman decided to take NFL by storm and make everyone forget about Coleman. Two months ago, Coleman might’ve been in the best possible situation among the B1G rookie running backs to dominate the carries. Instead, he’s now stuck behind the guy leading the NFL in rushing. It’s an unfortunate development for Coleman, who didn’t do anything wrong to get bumped down the depth chart. But in the NFL, you have to roll with the hot hand, and that’s a lesson Coleman knows about all too well early in his career.
Jeremy Langford, Bears — We haven’t seen a ton from the former Michigan State back, but that should change on Monday. Langford took over for the banged up Matt Forte for the first time last Sunday and is in line to get feature back work on Monday Night Football. It’ll be a prime opportunity for Langford to show the franchise that he can be the back of the future. The soon-to-be-30-year-old Forte is still one of the premier backfield talents in the league, but it remains to be seen what the rebuilding Bears will do with him. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Forte shipped to a contender by season’s end. Langford could give management a major vote of confidence if he shows he can be a three-down back on Monday night.
David Cobb, Titans — Well, we’re still waiting on the former Minnesota workhorse can carve out a role in the NFL. The good news for Cobb is that while he’s been on injured reserve for a calf injury, no Titan tailback has emerged and he’s eligible to return this weekend. The bad news is that he reportedly came back to practice a little overweight. It remains to be seen what kind of workload Cobb will get this season. Antonio Andrews and Bishop Sankey figure to still get a portion of the workload. When Cobb gets his time, he’ll have to adjust to not receiving the 25-plus carries he got with Jerry Kill. It’s too early to tell whether or not he’ll find a home in Tennessee, especially considering it fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt earlier in the week. At the very least, Cobb will get a clean slate.