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

Apr 15, 2015, 5:20 AM EDT

Morris-TD-vs-Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 15, 15 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.

What is Alfred Morris’ role on the team, both this season and going forward?

This question isn’t from a particular tweet or Facebook post. It’s a combination of about half a dozen that have rolled in lately asking about Morris’ future. So I figured I’d roll them into one and take a look at Morris situation. I have to warn you going in that there are more questions than answers right now and a lot has to play out before we know what will happen with him.

For the last three years he has been the unquestioned prime back for the Redskins, getting most of the running back carries with just a few sprinkled around for Roy Helu, Evan Royster (in 2012), and Silas Redd. Since Morris came into the league only Marshawn Lynch has more carries and more yards.

The big picture is fine but his production has gone down year by year. In 2012 he set the Redskins record with 1,613 yards but he posted just 1,275 and 1,074 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Although his carries also declined each season, so have his yards per carry, from 4.8 to 4.6 to 4.1.

Of course, Morris should not shoulder all of the blame for the drop in production. Robert Griffin III was a tremendous running threat in 2012 while the last two seasons defenses have been able to focus on Morris. The offensive line is not as bad as many fans believe but it’s also not a great asset to him.

We’re all familiar with the past but what’s going to happen going forward? There are a few factors in play here. One is that this is the final year of Morris’ contract. Another is that Helu has left as a free agent so there is an opening for Morris’ main backup and third down back. And there is talk that the Redskins are going to shift to putting an emphasis on a power rushing game rather than the zone scheme that Morris rode to so much success over the last three years.

The draft is deep at running back so the Redskins could go there for Helu’s replacement. But if they draft a back somewhere in the top half of the draft, are they going to want to use him for more than the 40 rushing attempts that Helu got? Will the rookie back—or an in-house option like Redd or Chris Thompson—cut into Morris’ carries? The Redskins are one of the few NFL teams that has one back carrying so much of the load. We could see a job sharing arrangement with a more dynamic back getting 10-12 touches per game.

We’ll have to see how Morris performs behind power blocking, if he can hit the hole quickly and pick his way through the line. I tend to think that he’ll do just fine but it’s hard to say until he actually does it consistently. And keep in mind that they will still run plenty of zone plays; Gruden has emphasized that they’re not shifting to all power run plays.

The depth and Morris’ effectiveness will come into play next year when Morris will be a free agent. If the Redskins do find a good back in the draft, one who can be a receiving threat out of the backfield, or if Redd or Thompson performs well, will they want to move on and cast their lot with the younger, cheaper, lower mileage back? Would Morris want to stay if there is a reduced role?

It’s also possible that Morris performs well in 2015, the Redskins are happy with him as their primary running back, and he signs a new contract that is satisfactory to both sides.

As noted in the beginning here there are many more questions about Morris’ future than there are answers. But that applies all but perhaps a handful of players on the roster. When you’re on a team that has won seven games in the last two years, got a new head coach a year ago and a new GM this year, it’s the way things are.

Timeline

—It’s been 108 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 151 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 5; 2015 NFL Draft 15; Redskins minicamp starts 62

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. troylok - Apr 15, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    I love Morris, but his production is going to continue to decline in Gruden’s offense. He just doesn’t have the right skill set. Frankly, I think the Redskins should put a package together of players that were a better fit in Shanahan’s offense and trade them to Atlanta where Kyle Shanahan is now an offensive coordinator. They could send Lichtensteiger, Morris and Chester for draft picks or players. I think it would be more fair to the players who will never be successful in Gruden’s offense.

    • ceetown22 - Apr 15, 2015 at 2:09 PM

      and old bobbo-pedic

  2. sidepull - Apr 15, 2015 at 6:56 AM

    They hit gold when they drafted Morris. For once, this is just what the draft is to be, exciting, and finding a gem to build around and they did that with Morris. To entertain getting rid of Morris is difficult. Initially when they drafted Rg3 I thought this is going to be fun, RG3, Morris and Trent Williams are going to be Redskins building blocks for a long time. They will build the team around them. Now with the Rg3, the QB position is not stable, No help for Williams, and Morris just keeps running in spite of obstacles placed in front of him….he and Williams are Redskins. I just cant see them getting rid of the guy. I say he performs well this year, gets his thousand yard season and then some. If they offload him, a guy who is humble, vey durable and productive, they are crazy. CT will be injured and Redd is good but he is no Morris. I am rooting for Morris to be here. I would rather see a bunch of players or coaches go before Morris. The Redskins found him he’s our!

    • Erik - Apr 15, 2015 at 8:03 AM

      I freakin love Alfred, I agree…he is the type of player who plays on one team for his career. And I hope he remains here.

    • bangkokben - Apr 15, 2015 at 9:18 AM

      Guys. Morris is all that you say but you’re living in the past. Teams no longer build organizations around running backs and nor should they. Remember Clinton Portis and how much he balled until his concussion. The dude was exciting in pass-pro. But the ‘skins were hamstrung with his contract. Morris deserves all the money and success he can get and I hope it with the Redskins but that might not be what’s best for the team.

      • Stephfan - Apr 15, 2015 at 10:29 AM

        Then Ben please tell us with your great wisdom on how to build a team? Because no one said focus on building the team through the running back? Many fans just believe that he is the answer to our running back woes.

        • captblood3000 - Apr 15, 2015 at 10:46 AM

          I can take this one: it’s a deep class at running back. Look to draft one. It’s a deep class for guards and right tackles: look to draft at one or both of those positions. Better offensive line play and depth will benefit Morris and his successor. Football is a business, you can’t get sentimental about it, even for Alfred Morris. I say this as a fan of AlMo..

        • Stephfan - Apr 15, 2015 at 11:12 AM

          Lmao capt I don’t know who is getting sentimental? All I said was that we tried to draft good running back before, Helu, Evan, etc and how did they pan out? We have a good one possible great and you guys want to let him walk to another team? I’ll all for finding another running back to ease Morris’s carries but that’s it. Why take another good chip off the offense? And there is no gaurentee that the person that gets drafted will do anything like Morris has done. Again Helu,Evan , Thompson justti name some and they were higher draft picks…

        • bangkokben - Apr 15, 2015 at 12:02 PM

          Dude. What are you talking about?

          Running back woes?
          Nobody has running back woes anymore the position just isn’t as important as it use to be. Even going into Morris’ rookie season Redskin fans felt good about the Roy Helu – Evan Royster tandem. NOBODY was suggesting getting free agents or even drafting a back and Shanahan picked Alfred.

          No one said focus on building a team through the running back?
          sidepull – Apr 15, 2015 at 6:56 AM “… finding a gem to build around and they did that with Morris.” That’s the 2nd sentence of the post I’m responding to! sidepull then mentions building around Morris, Griffin, and Williams two other times. Quibble if you think that isn’t focus.

          “..please tell us with your great wisdom on how to build a team? ”
          This is clearly sarcastic and you clearly wouldn’t understand if I told you.

        • Stephfan - Apr 15, 2015 at 1:43 PM

          Correct if I’m wrong but running was a need heading into that draft. Not a huge one but it was. people(analysts) were saying the redskins did need to find a running back. I’m not saying we build through the back, all I’m saying is that a good is needed and it’s hard to find one. I’ve already mentioned this in my other posts. Read em

        • captblood3000 - Apr 15, 2015 at 8:23 PM

          Stephfan, you are sentimental when you recall how great Morris was, especially in 2012, and let that affect how you would deal with him in the future. Sentimentality is not emotion but rather the recollection of emotion.

          I would resign Morris at the end of his contract if the price is reasonable and I thought he could could produce two more thousand yard seasons. But I would also look to draft his replacement this year, because it’s a good year to do that.

        • Stephfan - Apr 15, 2015 at 9:18 PM

          Not capt your confusing sentimental for wanting to keep a good running back on the team and try to draft another that may or may not pan out. If you’ve checked on her I’ve said countless of times why draft a running back to replace Morris when is still in his prime? You only response is what that there are good running backs in the draft. My response is why waste a pick on a guy to be a starter next year when they can resign Morris. Because you have no gaurentee that any of these backs can be better than Morris. But I guess you must have the inside track on players these days lmao. So untill you can prove that any of those backs can be better than Morris, my opinion stands. Land the only thing you will be able to come up with is that they catch out of the back field? And I’ll say how often did they throw to him, not that much. Why you may ask because they assume in my opinion that he (Morris) can’t do it but we have seen him catch out of the back field. He can do it if they give him the ball

        • captblood3000 - Apr 16, 2015 at 9:31 PM

          Stephfan, when the draft has more talent at particular positions (running back, guard) than others (tight end, quarterback) and you follow BPA, you’re more likely to select where you have the most talent. When you rule out drafting particular positions, you get a less talented team. The Redskins need another running back, but it’s only BPA that should drive such a pick.

    • ceetown22 - Apr 15, 2015 at 2:10 PM

      I hope morris remains here as well. It doesn’t make any sense to get rid of him.

  3. Stephfan - Apr 15, 2015 at 7:53 AM

    If the redskins know what’s good for then, they would keep Morris. So what his numbers declind? He still rushed for over 1000 yards and is the best running back we had going back to the Clinton Portis days. After Portis left our running backs were below average. But with Morris you see that will to win and he is a hell of a running back! For those of you wanting to trade him please sit down. Why trade a good running back who has the potential to be great if gruden would give him the ball more! How many games did I wacth last year where the run game would start to click, then gruden would start getting pass happy! And yes I know gruden didn’t call plays but we all know he is a pass happy guy. But multiple point is if he sticks to the run, Morris will be fine I think in this scheme and we should trade him period!

  4. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Apr 15, 2015 at 8:11 AM

    We’ll have to see how Morris performs behind power blocking

    Also whether our O.L. will get any better at it.

    Good coaches take advantage of their players’ strengths, rather than insisting on pounding square pegs into round holes.
    ~

    • cowboyhater - Apr 15, 2015 at 12:22 PM

      If we have square pegs on this roster then we go get the round ones in the draft, and through FA. That’s what good coaches do….our new GM was put in charge of this and I’m pretty sure they will get this accomplished. This issue here is one fix at a time…this can’t be done overnight like many of you expect. Nice moves on D, but it won’t be until next season when they can really start converting this line, and coaches who were brought into an organization should have that opportunity to find their round pegs as well.

      • bangkokben - Apr 15, 2015 at 1:21 PM

        Well said.

        • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Apr 15, 2015 at 4:49 PM

          Another top 5 draft pick season, and this coach will be gone.

          NFL history is full of people who said, “I wanted to make an omelet, and you gave me a bowl of scrambled eggs!’
          ~

  5. obxskins - Apr 15, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    ALMO is so easy to like and cheer for. Always seems to have great attitude. He really won me over with the story of his car. We know the life of Rb in NFL is short but we def have a keeper in 46! Rock on ALMO, God Bless!

  6. warpath1 - Apr 15, 2015 at 8:48 AM

    Morris will continue to decline in performance until our offense becomes a threat through the air. Last year defenses were not scared of our passing game therefore concentrated on the run. With effective balance production will improve. HTTR

    • ajbus1 - Apr 15, 2015 at 7:13 PM

      Great point. That will be a big key to the offense. Morris was as productive as he could be in the offense we had last year. HTTR!

  7. redskinscaio - Apr 15, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    I’m a big fan of Morris as well.

    Shanahan, or whomever drafted him, hit a grand slam! But I wouldn’t resign him to a long contract with high salary cap numbers when his rookie contract expires…As a skins fan, I know that the running back position is the most demanding and dangerous position on that football field, and the odds of a running back staying productive after 5 or 6 years makes me uncomfortable. At the end of the year, I’d try to go for a one year extension.

    If Morris has a great year in 2015, make him one of the highest paid backs next year (2016). But, only offer him a one year deal and work from there. Anyway, that’s what I would do…

  8. brucefan1 - Apr 15, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    I too love Alf. Everybody loves Alf…no? But as Tina Turner once asked, what’s love got to do with it?!

    Hiis biggest problem has always been that he gives the Skins zip/zilch/nada as a pass receiver!
    That makes only a two down back at best — not to mention anyone a defense has to concern themselves with if the Skins decide to pass on 1st or 2nd downs. (Hopefully he’s at least an asset in pass protection on those plays, but I can’t really recall. A little help, please!)

    Unfortunately, imho, this shortcoming causes AM to fall in a LITTLE further down the list of UBER RBs (or is it RBER UBs?😱) and thus just a bit more expendable.

    • ET - Apr 15, 2015 at 11:59 AM

      “Two down back” is no longer a negative; in fact, I’d say it’s generally a positive for both the backs and the team to have some platooning at the position. Longevity at running back is precarious at best.

      Morris does a great job filling the traditional RB role, no doubt, but his lack of receiving chops may actually improve his NFL likespan.

      • brucefan1 - Apr 15, 2015 at 2:01 PM

        Can’t really disagree with you ET.

        I guess my only concern are those instances where you wanna keep a defense guessing like screens or outs to an RB who MIGHT sneak out and break one on early downs…or 3rd & 3(or 4?) when using your back to either run OR catch would give a defense ONE more thing to worry about. (A lesser runner takes away the run concern. — and a non-catcher like Alf eliminates the catch option) A back who’s proficient at both (A. Foster…M Forte…Shady?) gives a defense fits. No?

        (Besides, while WE might be happy that AM might get some longevity outta not being a receiver, I wonder if the Redskins — or Morris for that matter — feel satisfied with that?😜)

        • ET - Apr 15, 2015 at 7:05 PM

          You’re right, there are a few backs who give teams both options on every down—but only a few, especially when you consider Al’s workload.

          Though I’d argue we may already have the kind of back you have in mind: Darrel Young. I don’t exactly how big a workload he could carry, but I certainly think he’s underutilized.

  9. Skulb - Apr 15, 2015 at 2:41 PM

    “The offensive line is not as bad as many fans believe”

    I wish you would repeat this in every blog until it sinks in. Perhaps you could incorporate it into the headline banner in flashing letters somehow. Something like “Rich Tandler`s Real Redskins – The O-line is Average and the Entire Offense Blows!”

    Too long perhaps?

  10. ajbus1 - Apr 15, 2015 at 7:11 PM

    I’ve been wondering about this a long time but I don’t see Morris going anywhere. He’ll fit just fine in the power scheme sprinkled with zone. Another thing is that Morris isn’t a diva. I don’t see him getting cranky about being the highest paid back or anything, he’ll sign a reasonable contract.

    But McC is gonna draft BPA no matter what. If Todd Gurley is available in the third round you have to take him, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t like Morris. I like what he said after signing Pot-Roast: “you take care of me and I’ll take care of you.” He won’t let Morris leave if he remains productive.

  11. Barry Catoe - Apr 16, 2015 at 11:45 AM

    Alf is that dude.. Sixth round phenom.. But In Gruden’s system his numbers may very well decline some more. I personally think we should split the load to about 60/40 with another dynamic all purpose back.. I liked Helu and felt we should’ve kept him.. He deserved more touches and passes out the backfield.. Plus he was the speedster on the roster.. That’s why I always thought Reggie Bush would be a great fit for us.. Alf is clearly made for kyle shanahan type of system.. Now in Atlanta.. So I don’t have a problem with the skins going forward with him, but just needs to divide the load up with an all purpose back..

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