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Need to Know: What is Alfred Morris’ future with the Redskins?

Mar 20, 2015, 5:23 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 20, 41 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from the Real Redskins Facebook page:


We don’t know what Scot McCloughan thinks of Alfred Morris, who has played in the last two Pro Bowls. The GM has had very little media availability since coming to the Redskins in early January and Morris is not a topic that has come up.

But even if he had said anything, what someone like McCloughan does is much more instructive than what he says. It has been pretty well established that they were in touch with free agent running back Justin Forsett, who was popped into the Ravens’ lineup last year after Ray Rice was suspended and ultimately released, in the lead to free agency. All he did was rush for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns.

Sure, the Redskins thought they might be in need of a back to replace Roy Helu, who signed a free agent contract with the Raiders soon after the start of free agency. But you don’t show interest in Forsett if you want someone to play around 350 snaps, which is what Helu played last year. After his 2014 season he is either your full-time back or at least in an equal job-sharing arrangement with another back.

Job sharing is something that would have to be an adjustment for Morris. He has been The Man toting the rock for the Redskins since the first game of his rookie season. Since then, two Redskins running backs have more than 35 total carries. Helu has 104 and Morris has 876. The addition of a back like Forsett would certainly lead to a smaller share of the action for Morris.

Let’s look at something else. Morris is heading into the last year of his rookie contract. There has been talk of contract extensions for Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams, both of whom also have deals that expire after the 2015 season. But nothing has been said about an extension for Morris.

It is possible that there really isn’t much here. The interest in Forsett may have been mild and simple due diligence. It is perhaps hard to blame them for not getting into serious contract negotiations with Morris, given the high injury rate at the running back position.

We’ll have to see how it plays out. Obviously if McCloughan drafts a running back in the first few rounds, the picture changes drastically. But if the status quo remains in place I’d look for Morris to continue in the same role he has had for the past three years and a new contract would be dealt with next spring. We can renew speculation and reading tea leaves at that time.


—It’s been 82 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 177 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 31; 2015 NFL Draft 41; Redskins training camp starts 132

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. gonavybeatarmy - Mar 20, 2015 at 7:06 AM

    Morris is a fine RB and a really good guy in a league with a lot of unsavory characters. But it would seem that the Skins hold all of the leverage even with Morris entering the last year of his rookie contract.

  2. sidepull - Mar 20, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    Humble guy, team player, coachable, durable just the kind of character you desire from a player. Shanny found a great back. Problem to me is Gruden doesn’t use him enough. That doesn’t not bode well for Alf. The coach said he waned to have a smashmouth running identity for this team but it never materialized. II did watch some film of the O line and the blocking the had done/not done for Alf. The reporter identified multiple blown blocking assignments and that of course limited what production Alf was able to muster. Great back even in the worst of times. Would hate to see him go. The guy is a Redskin.

  3. 214hof - Mar 20, 2015 at 7:53 AM

    I totally agree, AlMo is a great guy off the field and a solid football player on it. My gut tells me that Washington is going offense in the draft (WR 1st, RB 2nd) after seeing the approach they took in free agency. WR seems to make the most sense at 5, White would be like Gruden getting Green back at Cinncy. RB will more than likely be BPA when the Redskins’ are on the clock at 37, Gruden likes his backs to have the ability to catch the ball sadly this is something Morris was never known for even going back to college.

    • James McFullan - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:07 AM

      Whenever you watch the Pro Bowl AlfMo becomes the go to running back for the passing game, the only problem is that by the time RGIII gets to his check down route, the play has already blown up

      • hcicron - Mar 20, 2015 at 4:24 PM

        The other problem is that RG3 also waits til Morris has stopped and is staring at him. By then the LB is already closing.

        • hcicron - Mar 20, 2015 at 4:26 PM

          However I think RG3 is focused on improving that this year and hopefully we see improvement

  4. troylok - Mar 20, 2015 at 8:04 AM

    Morris is a great back but not the kind of back Gruden is looking for. If I get Gruden’s offense – and that admittedly is a big IF – then the idea is to have as many receiving options out there as you can have. They don’t all have to be 4.3 – 40 gazelles, but they have to be able to participate in the passing game. Morris just doesn’t have the hands. Even though the guy is a great runner, not being able to catch the ball limits Gruden’s offense. If I read the stats sheet correctly, Forsett had 44 catches last year for 647 yards. The stats say he caught three times as many balls as Morris did last year. Maybe why they looked at Forsett has more to do with that simple math.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 20, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      I’d guess you’re right. We get these coaches who are determined to run their system, regardless of the skills of the players they have.

      Then they’re gone from losing too much before they ever have their ideal team.

      • gonavybeatarmy - Mar 20, 2015 at 8:35 AM

        I think you all make some terrific points, particularly the analogy between Kevin White and A.J. Green.

        However, my hope and belief is that McCloughan will be totally empowered to run the draft as he sees fit, irrespective of what level of influence Gruden has in the organization. The reality is that McCloughan has a successful track record of building multiple organizations into sustainable power houses, while Gruden has one season as a head coach and his coaching efforts were at best unimpressive last season. Additionally, McCloughan inherited Gruden and seemingly has no investment in him nor should he. A well run organization, which this is far from, should almost create a culture in which McCloughan is left alone relative to the draft and personnel, just as the head coach should be given full autonomy once the season begins.

      • sidepull - Mar 20, 2015 at 9:30 AM

        True. It was pitiful to watch them getting away from the run. That O line as deplorable as people claim, could run block better than pass block so why not run the ball? Because Gruden wanted to force the line to pass bock, force the QB to throw in situations where running the ball would suffice. Alfs talent was wasted. I say if the line improves both QB and Alf will improve. Gruden just has to let that line do what it does best.

        • ET - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:15 AM

          Looked to me that the run blocking took a turn for the worse, too, last season. It was really a transitional year for the line, as they move steadily away from a zone-based to a power-based blocking scheme.

          I feel like there was often a feedback loop going on last season—line doesn’t open good holes for Morris, Morris starts slow or appears ineffective, Gruden abandons run before it can be established.

      • troylok - Mar 20, 2015 at 9:31 AM

        Thunder, that is it exactly. People forget that beast mode started in Buffalo, but when a new coaching staff came in they didn’t think he fit with their system and they traded him to Seattle for a song. How do you let a guy like that go? Do you mean you couldn’t find a way to “tweak” your offense to accomodate his style of play? I feel the same way about RG3 as I do Alfred Morris. When RG3 was on top of his game Kyle Shanahan drew up offenses that allowed him to scramble. Now Gruden is trying to turn him into a pocket QB and he doesn’t look like Pro-Bowl material. My feeling is you can play it two ways: you can either try to tailor your playbook to the skills of your players or you can get new players that match your playbook. I think Gruden is stubbornly rooted in the latter category. Morris doesn’t fit. RG3 doesn’t fit. Half of the offensive line doesn’t fit.

        • sidepull - Mar 20, 2015 at 4:42 PM

          Scary isn’t it? To have some very good players and Grudedn just wont play to their strengths. Stubborn and foolish could get you fired. Bengals fans were always complaining that he would not run the ball enough when he was in games where the run would be very effective..

    • hk2000 - Mar 20, 2015 at 9:19 AM

      I don’t think even Gruden himself knows what he’s looking for, but yeah that makes a whole lot of sense- why only have 2 or 3 reads, lets give him 6 or 7 reads! Right? after all the OL is giving him SO MUCH TIME to pick and choose who to throw to. Gruden was clueless for a whole year and we’re giving him another year, why? Just to be sure? I submit the only reason the new GM did not fire him is the fear of the backlash at yet another coaching change after only one season.

  5. mr.moneylover - Mar 20, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    Alfred Morris numbers going down year by year…and he was bench last year in a game when we was only down by 7 and only left jay gruden to call passing plays and he battle with injury a lil bit…I think alfred morris need to put on more weight to help him …coming out of college as a fullback he was bouncing off of people and was hard to tackle and in that year people was comparing him to BEAST MODE but now he get tackle by one player when use to need five players to bring him down

    • shermanp79 - Mar 20, 2015 at 9:52 AM

      I agree Morris’s numbers are dropping. He really is an average back who benefited from the threat of RG3 to run. He has fumbled too many times the past year and a half. We need an all around back. He doesn’t even block the best. He is an OK blocker but can improve. He should have a big back role for years but he should be a 50/50 guy. You want a guy who can catch and one who makes big plays. He may be a zone guy. I’m not sure he fits as well in the new scheme. Will he get through the hole fast enough. I have felt for over a year he is replaced. It seems Gruden wants a faster guy who can catch. He had a big guy in Cin but drafted Bernard, who moved the big back out of town. They also drafted Hill, the type back teams want today. I would love Arjayi on this team. They may take a RB late this year but if they can’t find a guy there, they will look for one earlier next year. I know Scot likes big guys, he took Gore in SF, a big back but a guy who can catch and make some big plays.

      That said, where are you getting your info? He was not a FB coming out of College. He doesn’t block well enough to be a FB. He can can’t catch well, something FBs need to do. I recall no comparisons to “Beast Mode, not now and certainly not then. He was a 6th round pick, a guy who could of gone undrafted.

  6. renhoekk2 - Mar 20, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    Power running scheme that they want to move to is more man on man blocking with a designated “hole” between the linemen. A back in that system has to “hit” the hole with speed before it gets closed by the defense. In the zone blocking that Shanny and Gruden ran last year, the OL move in synchronization either to the left or right and do a lot of combo blocking. The RB “slow plays it” and waits for a cut back lane to materialize. The RB runs with patience a picks his own hole. They are two completely different philosophies and running styles. Nobody knows if Morris can be a power scheme RB. I can see why they would want to find one that has shown he can do it.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 20, 2015 at 10:09 AM

      There’s the problem again.

      Our line was a ZBS line. Only Trent Williams has the talent to also be a key member of a power-blocking offensive line.

      But Gruden tried to peg square pegs into round holes, and it predictably failed.

      P.S. They added Shawn Lavauo, but he stank at both ZBS and power-blocking.

    • ET - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      It remains to be seen if Morris can produce in a power-based scheme, but I’m guessing he can. More problematic is the other part of the equation: Can the existing linemen execute a power scheme effectively? At least the OL has Callahan as their mentor. That gives me some hope.

    • bangkokben - Mar 20, 2015 at 1:32 PM

      Kyle Shanahan is on record that Alf is not a system back.

  7. rayvil01 - Mar 20, 2015 at 9:47 AM

    Rich, Isn’t Morris the kind of back that excels behind that zone-blocking scheme, but not so much behind a power-blocking scheme?

    I saw once a breakdown of how much more effective he was when the Skins ran from a pistol set than a standard set. It was a big difference. With the team moving away from that type of offense, maybe that diminishes Morris’ value here.

  8. captblood3000 - Mar 20, 2015 at 10:03 AM

    This year’s draft class is deep at running back. When your GM is a committed BPA drafter, that says there’s an excellent chance he’ll draft a running back. We just don’t know when.

    • 214hof - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:12 AM

      Agreed, Gorden or Gurley in the second? Abdullah, Buck or Duke in the third? Lots of options in my opinion… Very deep at RB and doubt any of them will be off the board till the mid 20s in the first… Maybe not even then, the way they have been devalued in the draft as of late.

    • mr.moneylover - Mar 21, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      There are plans to draft a running back in the late rounds tho…or they could look at undrafted free agents

  9. redskinsinrichmondva - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:10 AM

    I like Alfred Morris and want him on the roster. I also agree that coaching, roster, and offensive system are possible factors in the drop in Morris’s proudction (per Football Outsiders’s RB DVOA, Morris went from great to above-average to below-average in each of his seasons in the league). It’s the same thing with Robert Griffin III, except Morris doesn’t play QB; and therefore he doesn’t attract the ire of ridiculously naive and fickle fans who feel that one player will singlehandedly win games for their football team.

    The downside with re-signing Morris? He plays a position (RB) that is less valuable and easier to stock with replacement-level players. You can’t be just an average-producing RB and get a nice payday.

    • bangkokben - Mar 20, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      The difference in what was spent on each not to mention their media personalities might have something to do with that ire.

      • redskinsinrichmondva - Mar 20, 2015 at 2:17 PM

        And what personality is that? If some fans are willing to put up with personalities like Richie Incognito and Greg Hardy on their NFL teams, I don’t see why those same fans can’t put up with Griffin. At worst, you’ll get a lawless miscreant who helps to sell Subway sandwiches. Let’s make this clear in case you didn’t pick up on the sarcasm of the previous sentence: most people who whine about “personality” don’t care about “personality”. It’s only used as a crutch for criticism of the player’s on-field proudction, and after the fact. Remember, no one complained about Russell Wilson when the Seattle Seahawks were winning; then they start off the 2014 season in a funk, and then the previously quiet Russell Wilson is now a polarizing locker-room figure who isn’t “black enough”. That wasn’t a coincidence.

        And fans need to get over the draft picks that were traded away for Griffin. The team was a mess before Griffin, a 31-year old *Rex Grossman* was quarterbacking the team, and Griffin entered the 2012 NFL draft as one of the most highly-touted QB prospects in a long time. The Redskins also weren’t doing much in the draft in the first place, especially with the management that was in place at the time. The franchise needed a re-boot plain and simple, and QB was the most obvious position to re-boot.

        • bangkokben - Mar 20, 2015 at 2:37 PM

          Regardless of what other teams do or don’t has no bearing on how Redskins’ fans view their players. I’m just giving more reasons as to why Morris gets a pass for declining production and why Griffin does not. A year ago, fans were sick of Griffin despite our team’s recent 20-year history with quarterbacks and lack of team success over that time. Then, it was only one off year after a devastating injury and a public feud with the coach.

          Fickle fan base – that is our fans in a nutshell. These fans see the negative in everything and expect the negative. We are no longer the fans that rocked RFK and expected victory always but if it didn’t happen believed it would surely be ours next year. No. We are now the fans that blame everything on the quarterback, coach, or both, and especially the owner.

        • redskinsinrichmondva - Mar 20, 2015 at 3:25 PM

          “I’m just giving more reasons as to why Morris gets a pass for declining production and why Griffin does not.”

          Sure. It’s just that some Redskins fans aren’t different in that regard. There were posters who wondered why Incognito wasn’t signed to the team. That’s because of the perception that Incognito is still a competent OL player, and those players help teams win on the field. Let’s be honest: for some fans who point to “personality”, it’s mostly about production. If Griffin replicated his 2012 season in 2013, his public feud with Shanahan would be a footnote.

          As for Morris, there’s also the perception that he’s still been a good RB recently. Blame this on the misuse of RB stats; but even then, I don’t think that Morris’s personality would be relevant here if Morris had the YPC of, say, Trent Richardson.

  10. deepball1 - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:28 AM

    shermanp79 says about Morris “He really is an average back who benefited from the threat of RG3 to run.”

    gonna fill you in on something that you’ve missed: the Redskins hired Mike Clark to improve the strength of the offensive linemen. Its not necessary to try to bring in bigger tougher linemen: you MAKE bigger tougher linemen.

    Yes Morris didn’t do as well in the power blocking scheme……because the Redskins didn’t have any power. Am I the only one who notices that the Redskins linemen get pushed around. This is because they are WEAK….not because they have no ability. Mike Clark should fix that and the slackers will end up being cut.

    As for Al Morris, he is very versatile for any scheme and he should have another 1200-1300 yard season if Gruden uses him all the time, and I believe he will. 3rd downs aside, Morris is capable of getting 2-3 yards more on every run just because of his strength. Mike Clark may even help him.

    I really don’t understand why so many of you are down on Morris. Assuming that he rushes for about 1300 yards he will be the 2nd leading rusher over the last four years. If he can run for 1400 yards, he will claim the title of LEADING rusher over the last four years.

    and shermanp79……there is nothing AVERAGE about THAT.

    • warpath1 - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:46 AM

      Good points, also, lets not forget that it is hard to stick with the running game when always behind. it all works together. The defense plays better, the quarterback play improves and morris will be back to his best form.

    • redskinsinrichmondva - Mar 20, 2015 at 12:17 PM

      “Assuming that he rushes for about 1300 yards he will be the 2nd leading rusher over the last four years. If he can run for 1400 yards, he will claim the title of LEADING rusher over the last four years.”

      You need to understand that cumulative rushing yards (or rushing yards per carry) isn’t a great stat to use for RB value. Read about it.

    • mrhart76 - Mar 22, 2015 at 8:46 AM

      I agree. The kid runs hard. Makes the minimum. Drives a 1990 honda accord. Humble. Never seem him bringing attention to himself. Throwing tantrums. Runs over people. And we want to draft a new running back to replace him. Smh. It never ceases to amaze me. When we draft good players we want them gone a year or two later. Which is why we overpay for other teams players and why we lack leaders on the team. Scott is gonna change that.

  11. alextwrs - Mar 20, 2015 at 11:47 AM

    I wouldnt mind seeing a RB taken in this draft. Based on the fact that it will be a 3rd round or later type of pick. Like Rich always says, Drafts arent about this yr its about the future and I think we could use some youth. Not sold on Thompson but Silas was a great pick up. Its all about competition this year, unless you have been named the starting QB!

  12. brucealmty - Mar 20, 2015 at 12:49 PM

    I for one am very glad Scot McCloughan has had very little media availability. Well done. It’s the head coach that should be the face of the organization and his job to be available to the media.

    • hk2000 - Mar 20, 2015 at 8:18 PM

      Not this coach! You better pray he keeps his mouth shut. We are stuck with him for another year, but it would be ever so slightly more tolerable if he doesn’t blab to the media all the time and instead concentrate on COACHING- well sort of coaching, God help us.

  13. brucefan1 - Mar 20, 2015 at 2:13 PM

    Man, you guys have covered this topic from stem to stern — with no rocks unturned! Good work!

    But what has totally snuck up on me, tho, is how much the running back position has been devalued in recent years!

    What caused this shift…when did it happen? Has the game changed all that much in recent years — or are competent RBs just becoming “dime-a-dozen”?

    Whatever it is, gone are the days of a guy like Ditka trading his whole draft to the Skins to get a Ricky Williams. And I wonder if the Trent Richardson wasted-third-draft-choice fiasco is the last time an RB will get drafted that high for a while?

    And when an RB who produced the great season that DeMarco Murray did last season becomes expendable, ya gotta wonder WHO’S job is safe — including our beloved Alf Morris!

    • bangkokben - Mar 20, 2015 at 2:53 PM

      The main factors that contribute to the devaluation of the running back are the fact that the league is a passing league, the fact that the human body cannot take the kind of punishment a workhorse running back takes for too long, the fact that backs over 30 both wear down at extremely high rates and cost more than their production warrants. Morris will probably ‘cost’ $3M to rush for his first 5,000 yards. How much will he cost to rush for his 2nd 5,000 yards? Presuming he does rush for those totals. It comes down to economics. This is why Chip Kelly cut Jackson and cut McCoy. Economics. Even if he can’t match their production he expects that he can exceed their value (production per $).

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 20, 2015 at 7:21 PM

        the fact that the league is a passing league

        That’s thanks to the rule changes. I guess they dragged in more casual fans and thus $$$, but I don’t think it made the game better.
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