Jim Bob Cooter: Theo Riddick can be “a really successful runner”

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The Lions expect running back Ameer Abdullah to be ready for the start of training camp after he had shoulder surgery earlier this offseason, something that should keep him in line to be the starter in their regular season opener.

Abdullah was the team’s leading rusher last season, although that’s something of a hollow milestone given the Lions’ last-place ranking in rushing yards in 2015. The team has addressed the offensive line this offseason in hopes of get better blocking in the run game this time around and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is also talking up the expanded role Theo Riddick can play in the running game.

“Yeah, I believe he will,” Cooter said, via the Detroit Free Press. “We’re still kind of ironing that out and getting all our reps out here and kind of letting it shake out how it shakes out. But I think Theo can be a really successful runner.”

Riddick played a big role as a receiver last season with 80 catches out of the backfield, but ran the ball only 43 times and averaged just 3.1 yards on those carries. It will be easier to keep giving him the ball as a runner if he can get better production and that improvement should make the Lions’ offense less predictable as Riddick’s presence in the lineup won’t be a signal that the ball is going in the air.