Can Alfred Morris Succeed On The New-Look 'Skins?
With all the big changes being made in Washington, D.C., some might wonder what will happen to Redskins' starting RB Alfred Morris. In this offseason alone, the Redskins have hired Jay Gruden as their head coach, and they've signed a plethora of free agents, including DT Jason Hatcher, S Ryan Clark, WR Andre Roberts and, most recently, three time Pro Bowl WR DeSean Jackson. With Gruden's particular style of offense and the signing of two talented wide receivers, Morris's impact on offense and number of snaps could be effected.
In Morris's rookie season in 2012, he rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. In 2013, the sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic rushed for 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Morris flourished in his first two seasons in Washington under former head coach Mike Shanahan, who's had a knack for proliferating the careers of running backs.
Now with new head coach Gruden, Morris's role will most likely be changed. In Cincinnati, Gruden ran a pass-first offense, emphasizing the roles of wide receivers like A.J. Green and Marvin Jones, pass-catching running backs such as Giovanni Bernard, and two tight-end-sets which utilized Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. Additionally, the Redskins have just added additional firepower on offense in Roberts and Jackson, which will add to WR Pierre Garçon and TE Jordan Reed. Now with so many offensive targets and Morris not being a pass-catching back, Morris will see less touches.
In two NFL seasons, Morris has only compiled 20 receptions for 155 yards and no touchdowns. Clearly he isn't a pass-catching back, so more than likely on designed pass plays backup RB Roy Helu will be subbed in. And with all the aerial weapons and a talented young quarterback that can throw the ball down field well, Morris may become a two-down back.
Fortunately for Morris, Gruden featured RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis prominently in the Bengals offense despite having Bernard as the premier pass-catching back. Even with Bernard receiving 170 carries in 2013, Green-Ellis still carried the ball 220 times. And with Gruden favoring a pass-heavy attack, his Bengals team in 2013 rushed the ball a total of 481 times, eighth most in the league.
Morris will see less snaps in 2014, but most likely not significantly less carries. He'll be featured as a run-only back, and luckily for him, he doesn't have someone like Bernard to compete for snaps. Helu is talented but nowhere near the caliber of Bernard, and Morris is also a one-time Pro Bowler who runs over opposing defenders.
And with all of the receivers to now play with, defenses will be game-planning for the pass. Opposing teams will have to keep an eye on Garçon, Jackson, Roberts, Reed and Griffin. They may forget about Morris, who can take advantage of the lack of game-planning against him. With three receivers spread wide and Reed coming off the line, Morris will have many less defenders to face at not only the line but also the open field.
Morris may not see the snaps he desires or deserves in 2014, but his impact could still be immense, and unexpected given the newly refurbished offense.