TCF Bank Stadium will play host to the NFL's most explosive player for the first time on Sunday.
And Adrian Peterson will be there, too.
OK, so it's a stretch to call Detroit Lions rookie Ameer Abdullah the league's most explosive player. Or better than Peterson. But, truthfully, based on Week 1 of a 16-game season, both are at least momentarily accurate heading into Sunday's matchup of winless NFC North teams.
While Peterson had 13 quiet touches for 52 yards in his return from a 15-game NFL exile, Abdullah rocketed to the top of the league's all-purpose yardage list in his NFL debut at San Diego. The second-round pick from Nebraska had 14 touches for a league-leading 199 yards and ranks third in average yards per touch (14.2) behind Seahawks rookie Tyler Lockett (19.1) and Atlanta's Julio Jones (15.7).
Week 2 brings a trip to the Twin Cities to face a Vikings team that gave up 230 yards rushing on 39 carries (5.9) in a 20-3 loss at San Francisco. Yes, the 5-9, 203-pound Abdullah has Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's full attention despite his backup status.
Asked if Abdullah looks like a young Reggie Bush, a longtime irritant of the Vikings, Zimmer said: "Yeah, a little bit. Wears the same number , kind of the same acceleration in and out of the hole."
Abdullah cuts quickly, has soft hands and is a natural kick returner. He's decisive, fast and deceptively powerful. So, with all of that in mind, Zimmer was asked where Abdullah is most dangerous on the field.
"When he's got the ball in his hands," Zimmer said. "He's explosive to the hole, excellent as a cutback [runner], good in the screen game, good out of the backfield."
The Vikings considered drafting Abdullah with the 44th pick in the second round but went with a stronger need. They selected UCLA middle linebacker Eric Kendricks because they believe he'll eventually become the kind of modern three-down middle linebacker who can tackle well and cover shifty guys like Abdullah one-on-one in third-down passing situations.
Kendricks isn't a starter yet. But as a linebacker in the nickel package he's almost certain to have his skills and young legs tested by the 22-year-old Abdullah, the 54th overall pick.
The Chargers' entire defense and kick coverage unit was tested Sunday. In his first quarter as an NFL player, Abdullah scored from 24 yards on his first carry and broke loose for a 48-yard kickoff return. Overall, Abdullah had seven carries for 50 yards (7.1), four catches for 44 yards (11.0) and three kickoff returns for 105 yards (35.0).
The touchdown run came on third-and-1 with nine defenders in the box. Abdullah took a handoff to the right, cut left decisively 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage and blasted through a hole. Safety Eric Weddle was in position to make the tackle at the 10, but Abdullah did a quick stutter step, faked right and went untouched to the left when Weddle bit hard on the fake.
"Some guys will kind of juke you and then waste time, but this guy will cut and be gone," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said. "He's fast, but not crazy, straight-line fast. It's that cut-on-a-dime quickness that makes him so tough."
Vikings offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles played with Abdullah at Nebraska from 2011 to '13. He was there from the time Abdullah set school kick return records as a freshman to the time he ranked second in the Big Ten in all-purpose yardage (154.9 per game) in 2013.
"Off the field, I like him even more because he's got a great head on his shoulders," Sirles said. "Very smart, great team guy. Never been a selfish guy. Last year, when he hurt his knee [against Purdue in the ninth game], guys on that team were telling me how hard he kept pushing to keep playing. He easily could have shut it down and been like, 'Oh, I'm going to the NFL.' Great character."
Abdullah wasn't the same player with the knee injury late last year. But he sure looks healthy now.
"We watched the San Diego game, and it didn't surprise me what he did," Sirles said. "That guy has been slippery forever."