Alfred Morris the Answer to the Washington Redskins RB Woes
Alfred Morris may have been a 6th round pick out of Florida Atlantic, but he’s playing like he was drafted in the 1st round out of some major college program. Through his first four games Morris has 82 carries for 376 yards, and four touchdowns. He has a 4.6 yards per carry average, and is rushing for 94 yards per game. Morris has already rushed for three 20+ yard carries and has a long of 39. At the same time 19 of his 82 carries have resulted in a first down.
Let’s put those numbers in perspective a little bit. Last season Roy Helu paced the Redskins running backs with 151 carries and 640 yards (4.2 ypc). Though he had some big games, he definitely wasn’t consistent throughout the season. Helu managed just two rushing touchdowns last season (in fact as a team the Washington Redskins only had 8 rushing touchdowns). Helu had just a total of four 20 yard or longer runs and his biggest run was for just 28 yards. The year before Ryan Torain‘s numbers were a little bit better, 164 carries for 742 yards (4.5 ypc), but Torain managed just four touchdowns despite nearly twice as many carries.
Morris is on pace for 328 carries, 1,508 yards, and 16 touchdowns. That would be the 2nd highest rushing yardage total in franchise history, and 16 rushing touchdowns would be the highest since Stephen Davis had 17 in 1999. His 94 yards per game average would be the highest since Clinton Portis averaged 94.8 yards per game (on more carries per game) in 2005.
Now the Redskins shouldn’t clear a space in their record books or the Ring of Fame just yet for Alfred Morris as there is still 75% of the season to go. And as the Washington Redskins have witnessed really good 3-4 game performances by Roy Helu Jr. and Ryan Torain the last two years, only to not see them sustain them. Like both Helu and Torain, injuries could creep up that keeps Morris from getting the number of carries he needs to continue with this pace. The Washington Redskins game plan could change, if they start facing more games in which they are trailing. Right now Washington is running the ball 52% of the time, which is up from 40% (roughly) each of the last two years. As the season goes on, that percentage could go down, which could mean less carries per game for Morris. Though it is worth noting that when he’s rushed 20 or more times in a game, the Redskins have won, and when he’s been under 20 carries they’ve lost. Finally, Morris could see more of his carries split among the back-ups throughout the year. During the first part of the season both Roy Helu and Evan Royster have dealt with injuries limiting some of their effectiveness (in fact Helu is now on IR). As Royster gets healthy and Helu’s replacement, veteran Ryan Grant, becomes familiar with the offense, they could steal some carries from Alfred Morris.
The real key for Morris is to maintain his strong yards per carry number, which is all the more impressive given how often he gets first contacted behind or at the line of scrimmage. If the Redskins were able to get Morris into the second level without him being hit, his numbers could even be better, and it should be a key goal for the Redskins blockers going forward. If Morris can maintain his yards per carry (or even improve on it), he will have a very successful season, even if his carries are in the 250 range. If Morris stays healthy though he should be the Washington Redskins first 1,000+ back since Clinton Portis in 2008, and have a bright future for the Redskins.