Should the Redskins Limit Alfred Morris's Carries Down the Stretch?
Washington Redskins rookie running back Alfred Morris has been a steal for the team, with 982 yards on 208 carries, for an impressive 4.7 ypc. That is good for 7th in the league among backs with 100 or more carries, not too shabby for a rookie running back. Unfortunately that 208 carry number breaks down to 19 carries a game, which would mean he's looking at another 95 carries in the final 5 games, which puts him just over the 300 carry mark. That is a lot of carries for a rookie to handle, and could lead to decreased production down the stretch and possibly impact his future. Should the Redskins limit Morris's rushing attempts down the stretch, or hope that his play doesn't decrease?
I know many will question just how big of a deal this is and in truth there isn't a great definitive answer. What is clear is that in the last 5 years there have never been more than 7 running backs in a given season with more than 300 carries, and usually it is less than that. Teams are preferring to split carries to keep guys legs fresh, both in games and throughout the season. For Morris he hasn't shown many signs of slowing down, but there are a few things the Redskins should keep their eye on. In his 15 attempts where he's gone over 20 carries in a game, he's averaging just two yards per carry. He's also posting his lowest yards per carry (3.7) in the 4th quarter. Now that alone isn't great evidence in part because the sample sizes are small, and in many instances those 4th quarter and 20+ attempts, rushes are when the Redskins are winning and the opposing team knows they need to run out the clock. They are trends to be wary of though, because the Redskins won't have great evidence of Morris wearing down, really until it is too late and it already happens.
Now of course it is no guarantee that Morris will stumble or that it will impact his future. Some backs run strong throughout the year, regardless of the carries, others though do fall off on their final 75-100 carries. Some can handle the workload just fine, year after year, others seem to get worn down and have promising careers cut short. In his college career Morris peaked at 263 carries and that was back in his sophomore year. Adding 40 carries to that total is a bit, especially given that they are all physical carries, and unlike in college Morris is fighting for just about every single yard. In the last 5 years only one rookie (though two others are on pace this year), Matt Forte has gone over the 300 carries mark. He did struggle in his final four games, though had such an up-and-down year that it is tough to say if he hit the proverbial "wall".
Limiting Morris's carries won't be an easy task. For one thing he's been so effective running the ball, and when the Redskins give him 20 or more carries they are 4-1 this year. The Redskins also have been trying for a very balanced offense this year. They have 342 drop backs (pass attempts or sacks) and 346 combined rushing attempts. The Redskins are just 1-3 when attempting 30 or more passes in a game, and really aren't built to throw more the rest of the way. Unfortunately there aren't many options for giving Alfred Morris's carries to someone else.
Robert Griffin III- Typically in a situation like this you would just feed your number two ball carrier more attempts, but that doesn't really work when that person is your rookie quarterback. Griffin currently has 99 rushing attempts, and is on pace for 144, which is above both Michael Vick's career high, and Cam Newton's attempts last year. If anything the Redskins should look to limit that number, not increase his rushes. In fact the Redskins have appeared to call fewer running plays for Griffin, but his attempts keep going up, given the poor blocking along the offensive line forcing him to scramble. This is also why the team isn't built to pass more, given that the line can't protect the quarterback regularly.
Evan Royster- Royster is the number two back, but has just 13 carries this year, and is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. He was very effective for the Redskins down the stretch last year, but hasn't been the same this season. He dealt with some injuries earlier in the year and it's possible that he's never gotten to 100%, that doesn't bode well for him to take on 5-10 carries a game.
Darrel Young- Young is the 4th leading rusher with 9 attempts, and while they could try to give him a couple carries a game from here on out, it's not really an ideal situation.
Brandon Banks- Banks is 5th on this team with 7 attempts and sees the field quite a bit. Giving him more carries and plays though is not a good idea. In fact the team needs to stop featuring him, because he's rarely effective even as a decoy.
What do you think? Should the Redskins limit Morris's carries? If so how do they go about doing that?