- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Alfred Morris understood what the Redskins staff was doing; the running back just isn’t sure it worked for him. And it turns out that quarterback Robert Griffin III wasn’t the only Washington offensive player knocking off the rust.
Morris says he had some, too, because he did not receive enough carries in the preseason. In the season opener versus Philadelphia, Morris gained 45 yards on 12 carries. But he missed holes, fumbled once and dropped a pitch in the end zone.
On Sunday at Green Bay, Morris and the run game looked much better with 13 carries for 107 yards -- with nine of his carries for four yards or more -- showing better vision and patience. He set up defenders on a 32-yard run, for example, by pressing the outside; when the linebacker to that side overflowed, Morris cut back inside. In the first game, he gained 12 yards after contact, but had 48 such yards last week, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
“I got a little more comfortable,” Morris said. “I didn’t realize how rusty I was. But just knocking that rust off and getting a week under our belts and coming back and doing better, this week I hope to do even better.”
Morris carried the ball eight times for 28 yards in the preseason. Last year, as a rookie, he ran 39 times for 195 yards. He then rushed for 1,613 yards during the regular season.
“I’m not used to that,” Morris said about his preseason work. “The more I do, the better I get. … I’m a hard runner, always getting yards after contact, always making the first guy miss. I felt I wasn’t running as strong as I normally do because I didn’t have those reps you normally would get in the preseason.”
But Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Morris looked good during the preseason and that his slow start against Philadelphia was not rust related.
"Alfred was as good as I've seen a running back throughout all of camp," Shanahan said. "Anytime you have a fumble on the first play then you hav ea pitch on the goal line and there's a safety, guys lose a little bit of confidence. Even starting out the game last week you could see he wasn't normal. I tried to tell him, 'Don't worry about it, you're too good of a runner.' And then he started running a little better... I think you'll see Alfred do a lot of great things this season."
Still, many of the skill position starters did not get a lot of work in the preseason, in addition to Griffin (who was told by Dr. James Andrews that he could not play in the preseason). Receiver Pierre Garcon, for example, only caught two passes in the preseason.
But for a back such as Morris, rhythm is everything and you get that from work.
“I’m a workhorse, that’s what my body is used to,” he said. “I understand the method behind what they were doing, trying to rest you up and save you for the season. I’m not that type of player. The more I run, the better I get. From Week 1 to Week 2 there was a difference. Now I’m trying to find a way to get better, to get back to where I want to be. I’m not there yet.”