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Is This The Signing That Spells The End For Ameer Abdullah In Detroit?

The Lions have four running backs on the 53-man roster, plus fullback Nick Bellore.

September 04, 2018 - 2:06 pm
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The arrival of yet another running back in Detroit could signal the departure of Ameer Abdullah. 

The Lions signed Donnel Pumphrey to their practice squad on Tuesday, according to NFL Network, after he worked out for the team on Monday. Pumphrey, the NCAA's leading rusher in 2016 and a fourth-round pick of the Eagles in the ensuing draft, was cut by Philadelphia over the weekend. 

The Lions have four running backs on the 53-man roster, plus fullback Nick Bellore. Zach Zenner, currently on injured reserve, would make it five. 

Bob Quinn intends to have five backs on the roster this season, with three active on game days. Should he choose to make a move before Monday's season-opener against the Jets, Abdullah, the subject of trade speculation throughout the offseason, is the most likely candidate to be dealt -- with Pumphrey ready to take his place on the 53-man. 

Increasing those odds is this: the Lions reportedly like Pumphrey's potential as a returner, an area in which Abdullah stands out. 

The Lions already have an All-Pro returner in Jamal Agnew and a promising No. 2 in rookie Brandon Powell, diminishing Abdullah's value on special teams. His skill set is also redundant on offense, where Theo Riddick is a superior pass-catcher and Kerryon Johnson has the makings of a three-down back. 

If the Lions opt to trade Abdullah, who carries a $1.3 million cap hit this season, they now have a cheaper replacement waiting in the wings.

Abdullah would likely fetch a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick. The Lions could also try to package him in a deal for more pass-rushing help. 

Pumphrey, 23, missed all of his rookie season with a torn hamstring. The injury resurfaced this year during training camp, limiting Pumphrey to just one game in the preseason. He said he was back to 100 percent prior to the preseason finale, but the Eagles nevertheless cut him loose. 

"It's hard for young players, quite honestly, in this league to make rosters," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's flashed, he's done some nice things. ... It's just unfortunate at this time."

Like Abdullah, Pumphrey is a shifty, diminutive runner. His college resume speaks for itself. He piled up 2,133 yards and 17 touchdowns his senior year, and left San Diego State as the NCAA's all-time leading rusher with 6,405 career yards. He still holds that record. 

San Diego State also boasted the nation's No. 1 rusher last season in Rashaad Penny, so the offensive line and the Aztecs' system deserve a good deal of credit. 

Abdullah's spot on the Lions' roster appeared safe after the preseason finale, but the signing of Pumphrey -- even to the practice squad -- could be a contingency plan for Abdullah's departure.