Theo Riddick emerging as go-to running back for Lions

The Lions took a sixth-round flyer on Theo Riddick in 2013 out Notre Dame, and he has become a go-to player out of the backfield.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Lions have invested a lot in running backs, giving Joique Bell a $9.3 million, three-year contract and drafting Ameer Abdullah in the second round.

Theo Riddick, a sixth-round pick from 2013, is providing the best return so far this season.

"It’s the beauty of sports," Lions running backs coach Curtis Modkins said Wednesday. "What’s most important is winning and whoever gives you the best opportunity to win on that day, regardless of any factors, gets a chance. Theo is giving us a chance on Sundays and that’s why he’s getting the opportunity."

The Lions (1-5) ended their season-opening, five-game losing streak with a 37-34 overtime win over Chicago on Sunday.

Riddick had three receptions for 50 yards and nearly doubled his previous career high with seven carries for a personal-best 28 yards rushing against the Bears.

He leads all running backs with 33 receptions. The Lions haven’t had a running back with as many catches through the first six games of a season since James Jones had 34 in 1984.

Riddick became Detroit’s go-to running back against Chicago because Abdullah was benched for fumbling a fourth time, tying the highest total in the league by a running back. Bell missed a third straight game with an ankle injury.

When Detroit hosts the Minnesota Vikings (3-2) on Sunday, it will not be surprising if Riddick gets snaps on every down instead of being used primarily in passing situations.

"His skill set is pretty wide-ranging," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "He’s a tough and physical guy in terms of blocking. He runs the ball well. He can run it inside and out. He’s an extremely valuable guy in terms of special teams. We haven’t been playing him as much in that area recently because of the load he’s been carrying from the backfield."

The Lions tried to lean on Abdullah, giving him the ball a season-high 14 times against the Bears, but he ran for just 48 yards and put a scare into the coaching staff when he had to recover his own fumble.

Abdullah is off to a relatively disappointing start with 179 yards rushing — just 3.3 yards per carry — a touchdown and 113 yards receiving and a score.

"I’m not the fan favorite when it comes to fantasy football," he said.

Modkins said he has been working with Abdullah on his fumbling problem, reinforcing how to carry the ball and having people try to take it out of his hands during drills.

"He’s a sharp guy so I don’t think we have to brow-beat him about it," Modkins said. "He knows the issue is hurting our football team."

It is also cutting into his playing time because Caldwell has proven he will take out any player who is committing turnovers whether it is quarterback Matthew Stafford or a highly touted rookie such as Abdullah.

Caldwell said it’s important for Abdullah to prepare for defenders to make more of an effort to take the ball out of his hands.

"That’s the way it is in this league," he said. "You show that you have an issue, they’re going to test you consistently."

NOTES: Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (knee) and S James Ihedigbo (quadriceps) were not practicing during the early parts of Wednesday’s workout while Bell, TE Eric Ebron (knee) and DT Haloti Ngata (calf) were able to participate. … Detroit LB DeAndre Levy has had hip surgery and was seen walking around team headquarters without a noticeable limp.