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Ameer Abdullah stealing the show in Lions camp

A half-decade ago, Detroit fans watched promising young running backs Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure go down with hard-luck, career-ending injuries.

If Ameer Abdullah can stay healthy, the Lions believe their early-round backfield investment will finally pay off.

Outside of All Pro wideout Calvin Johnson, the former Nebraska star has been "the most eye-popping player" in training camp, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, "and it isn't particularly close."

As running backs coach Curtis Modkins was doing his level best to tamp down expectations with reporters over the weekend, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin walked by and let the cat out of the bag.

"We can't even tackle that guy," Austin said, via Birkett. "We can't even touch him. He's like grasping at air."

Although Modkins is reserving ultimate judgment until the games begin, he concedes that Abdullah "definitely shows some unique ability."

Abdullah's off-the-charts athleticism was evident when he led all running backs in vertical jump (42 inches), broad jump, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine.

As impressive as those measurable physical gifts might be, what we saw on the Senior Bowl MVP's college tape was even more promising.

NFL Media analyst LaDainian Tomlinson noted Abdullah's "natural instincts" and potential to open the Lions offense with big-play ability outside the numbers.

Ex-scout Daniel Jeremiah compared Abdullah to Bengals' threat Giovani Bernard.

"He's strong, he's quick, he can catch the heck out of it," Jeremiah said, "and he's good after the catch."

When I watch Abdullah, his uncanny vision, explosive lateral agility and burst to and through the hole are readily apparent. Most eye-catching, though, is a rare suddenness that makes it seem like he's actually picking up speed when he makes a cut.

Much like Bernard, Abdullah projects as a mismatch in spread situations, taking the ball on pitches, screens, draws, swing passes and crossing routes.

Just don't tell him that he can't be an every-down back at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds.

"For those who say that," Abdullah said in May, "I ask them to turn on my film."

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses Steve Smith's retirement news and predicts the training camp QB battles.

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