Monday, July 1, 2013
What's Alfred Morris got for an encore?
By Dan Graziano
Have I mentioned that ESPN.com's fantasy football draft kit is out? Here's the list of running back rankings, and right there at No. 9 you'll see the Washington Redskins' Alfred Morris, who finished second in the NFL in rushing yards last year as a rookie.
I was surprised to see Morris that low, because like I said, only Bionic Adrian Peterson rushed for more yards last year, and Morris plays for a coaching staff that sees leading the league in rushing as a point of pride. But fantasy analysts don't trust Mike Shanahan to stick with one back for any length of time, and there are legitimate concerns about Morris coming out on third down and the Redskins maybe throwing more this year with Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis healthy. He also doesn't factor in as a pass-catcher and he doesn't offer the big-play potential of guys like C.J. Spiller and Jamaal Charles, who are ranked right in front of him.
But that's for fantasy, and while we love our fantasy football here on the NFC East blog, most Redskins fans are more concerned about whether Morris can repeat his rookie-year performance or whether he'll suffer some sort of "sophomore slump" that will hurt the Redskins' chances of repeating as division champs.
In the video above, you will see a roundtable discussion of ESPN.com fantasy football experts talking about the running back position in general. Once you get to the 3:45 mark, Matthew Berry talks about Morris specifically, and I agree with him that concerns about a Morris fall-off don't have a lot of merit.
The Redskins want to run the ball and will continue to run the ball, in part because they won't want to run quarterback Robert Griffin III as much as they did last year and in part because a reliable run game is a key part of this zone-read offense they intend to keep in place. Morris will still get the ball at the goal line, and he'll still get the ball plenty on first and second downs because (a) it's important that the defense know for a fact they'll run and (b) the Redskins' coaches know exactly what Morris will do when he has the ball. He makes one cut and gets up the field, the way Shanahan's been teaching it for years. The offensive line knows that if it opens a hole, he'll find it. He runs with a forward lean that helps him pick up extra yards. He's not going to try to make some crazy extra-effort play that heightens the risk of a turnover or an injury.
Morris is only entering his second year, but in terms of the kind of runner he is and the way he fits his team's scheme, he's as reliable as any back this side of Minneapolis. He's not going to dazzle the way LeSean McCoy may in Philly, but he's going to do the exact job his coaches need him to do. And because the Redskins are a team that believes it must commit to the run no matter what, he's going to keep getting carries. I don't think a sophomore slump is coming. I think what Morris was last year is exactly what he'll be this year and for several years until he wears down or gets hurt, as between-the-tackles running backs do. For now, I say he's among the least of Washington's 2013 concerns.