Nov 9, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) celebrates after catching a pass in the end zone for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The one person standing in the way of a breakout season from Ameer Abdullah is Theo Riddick. He made a serious claim for some more 2015 snaps in the first preseason game. We all know about Theo’s amazing pass catching ability, he made a number of clutch catches to seal wins for the Lions last season and averaged 2.45 yards per route run last year(ProFootballFocus). However, he was a liability running the ball which limited him to passing downs. The Theo Riddick we saw against the Jets was a completely different running back. He might not of had a splash play like Ameer Abdullah, but he was consistent and had a number of high quality runs. If he can continue to run with the balance and vision he had against the Jets he will steal a number of snaps from both Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah.
This is a very solid run from Theo, he properly reads the positioning of the lineman on this zone play and shoots through the proper hole. He fights through contact to gain an extra 3 or so yards, this physicality was missing from his game in 2014. He is running much tougher and shows some improved vision. One thing thats interesting to point out is how much harder this cut back looks for Theo when you compare it to Ameer. He has to slow up and gather himself before he can change direction. Ameer has the athletic ability to plant and explode through the hole without the wasted motion that Theo displays in the play above. Its still an impressive play, it just shows the difference in athletic ability between the two running backs.
Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) during the game against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
This is another very impressive run, he avoids a tackle in the backfield by using his insane lateral quickness to jump cut around the first defender. Then another linebacker attempts a low arm tackle, Theo shows off some impressive lower body strength and runs through the tackle to regain and manages to regain his balance. He is physical at the point of attack and fights for a couple extra yards. Theo is a very elusive back, he broke four tackles on his nine touches against the Jets and made a couple defenders look stupid. He is special with the ball in his hands and can be very effective in the open field.
The runs above were both zone read runs, but like Ameer, Theo was impressive on both zone and man runs against the Jets. In this play above Theo displays high level instincts and vision when he cuts through traffic to reach a hole in the line thats hard to find. He makes another linebacker miss a tackle and falls forward for a solid gain. Theo takes a lot of pressure off the offensive line because of his ability to quickly cut through the line of scrimmage and create his own holes.
Theo Riddick had an amazing night for the Lions. He helped move the chains and was the most improved player on the team. He ran a lot tougher than he has in the past and showed a great feel for the holes in the run game. He finished the night with 8 carries and 35 yards (4.4 ypc), and was a consistent factor in the run game. He could force his way onto the field more often than the team expected if he continues to play like this. The Lions have a very impressive three headed monster at running back and it looks like the running game is going to take a huge step forward. The Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah Hype Train is going to lead the way.
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