That bled into an enticing 2015 debut and a 20-plus yard touchdown run on his first-ever NFL carry.
And even though the rookie wall is a well-constructed myth, Abdullah's play evened out behind a perforated offensive line. Fumbling issues didn't help matters either. Still, head coach Jim Caldwell remains wildly optimistic about Abdullah as he enters year two.
"If there's anybody who is going to improve, he's going to improve," Caldwell said in Boca Raton this week at the NFL Annual Meeting, via MLive.com.
He added: "I think that he was able to (get a lot better) during the course of the year. He had some peaks and valleys, but obviously, I think he's going to be OK."
Caldwell hopes Abdullah will be okay. For speed-oriented, dual-threat backs it sometimes takes more than a year to get acclimated to the NFL, especially if there are fumbling issues that need correcting. Abdullah was stripped five times in 2015, which made him difficult to trust, especially when his blocking wasn't providing any favors either.
He represents a crossroads for the organization at the moment. The team swung hard at skill position players in the draft like Abdullah and former North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2014 draft. Caldwell is still insisting that Ebron will develop, too. His numbers markedly improved in 2015.
All of these moving pieces will hopefully come together to form a new Lions offense. Calvin Johnson is no longer available to draw two or three defenders and rip the top off a defense. Matt Stafford is remaking his game, too. But without some growth from Abdullah, the process will take much longer than Detroit had hoped.