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Redskins’ Morris was frequently stopped before he could get started in 2014

Jul 21, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT


You don’t have to look very deeply into Alfred Morris’ numbers to realize that 2014 wasn’t a banner year for him. He averaged just 67 yards per game, quite a decline from the 101 yards per game he gained as a rookie in 2012. Morris did have 70 fewer carries in 2014 than he did in 2012 but he also averaged 4.1 yards per carry last year compared to 4.8 as a rookie.

There has been plenty of talk that Morris needs to be more productive this coming season, which also happens to be the final year of his contract. The team spent a third-round draft pick on running back Matt Jones and it appears that he will be give plenty of opportunity to make his case to be the No. 1 back in 2016.

But Morris can’t do anything without help and I found one article that indicates that he didn’t get nearly enough of it. Earlier this month Pro Football Focus ran a post looking at which running backs were hit in the backfield the most often in 2014. And right there near the top of the list was Alfred Morris.

According to the analysis, Morris took a handoff and was contacted before he reached the line of scrimmage an astounding 70 times, 26.4 percent of his rushing attempts. That was sixth in the league on a percentage basis. Although they don’t rank the raw numbers, it’s hard to imagine many backs getting hit in the backfield more than 70 times.

This feeds into the notion that the Redskins’ offensive line was a mess last year and that anyone from Jim Brown to Adrian Peterson would have struggled to put up impressive numbers behind that group.

And there is no question that the line needed to get better. That is why the Redskins paid premium dollars to bring in Bill Callahan, one of the best O-line coaches in the business. That is why they spent the No. 5 overall pick on right tackle Brandon Scherff and drafted two other linemen in the later rounds. The organization also decided to move on from right guard Chris Chester and promote Spencer Long to the starting spot there.

But getting hit in the backfield on a running play isn’t always the fault of the five offensive linemen. Sometimes tight ends, receivers, and the fullback don’t execute their assignments. The defense could load the box at times and have more defenders than the offense has available blocker. The loaded box frequently happens when the quarterback is struggling; the Redskins had a trio of QB’s who went through extended rough patches.

And sometimes the blame goes on the runner. Morris did say last year that he was not always hitting the right spots all the time. If the runner is going to one place and the offensive line thinks he’s supposed to be in a different place the play will frequently break down.

It should be noted that runners getting hit in the backfield is a common occurrence in the NFL. The running back who got hit early the least was Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs and he got hit 13.2 percent of the time. The PFF article doesn’t give complete data so it’s impossible to say with accuracy what the NFL average is for backfield hits. But eyeballing the top 10 and the bottom 10 I’d say that 20 percent is a reasonable estimate. If that’s the case and the Redskins were an average team in this regard then Morris would have been hit early on 53 of his 265 carries.

Like most areas of concern with this year, fixing just one aspect of the problem isn’t going to get done. For Morris to get a better chance at gaining positive yardage several areas need to improve, including the runner himself.

  1. mr.moneylover - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    Agree, we seen the middle of that O-line get push back 5 yards or more…thats why I say rg3 is not to blame for all the redskins struggle…my problem with alfred Morris is his run blocking and catching the ball skills if he add those two things to his skill set he would be less predictable and it will take some pressure off the O-line and QB

  2. troylok - Jul 21, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    Gruden tried to install a power running game last year with a few missing components and it shows. I also think his running play calls were very predictable. Even after the blocking up front improves, Gruden has to call the right plays. I hope that Callahan can help there. The QB can help, too by calling an audible when defenders start stacking the box, or shifting to a running play when he sees the defense running a pass defense. Finally, the blocking from the tight ends could be a lot better. Reed is not a good blocker. Paul is better and since he added a little more weight, he should match up better with the bigger linebackers. Paulsen is a blocking machine but last year he seemed to have a down year.

    • xskulldog - Jul 21, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      Nailed it! I think both of the guys are exactly right! Morris needs to improve his (brick) hands and blocking. Gruden needs to do a better job of play calling by keeping the defense off balance with draw plays, screen passes, play action and check downs to guess who…Morris. RGIII needs to do a better job at calling audibles and take what the defense is gives us.

      One last thing, we need to stop making stupid mistakes and getting penalties. So many drives and good plays were negated last year with bone headed mistakes. We have to play smarter in order to sustain drives on a consistent basis. The defense and special teams were just as bad with penalties.

      • ET - Jul 21, 2015 at 1:40 PM

        The “stupid mistakes” last year were killers. It sounds like the coaches hammered at these mental lapses in OTAs, but we’ll see if that translates to a drop in penalties during the season.

      • babyteal1 - Jul 21, 2015 at 4:06 PM

        Has he ever called an audible?…not that I can recall but I agree.

        • timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 21, 2015 at 10:45 PM

          Usually a Coach wont let the QB Audible till he knows the Offense. Since he hasn’t bin in the same offense that long I would say no.

  3. timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 21, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    Rich I hope that article wasn’t too hard to find with me commenting about it in a couple of your earlier blogs and and posting the link for everyone. Thats about 4 links I’ve posted you found. Can you Find the Time Till Pressure stats for me and Post them?

    • timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 21, 2015 at 1:22 PM

      It would be much appreciated. I also read an article that compared all 3 QBs…. WITH VIDEO!!!!!…… Get in touch with me on facebook if you would like that link also.

  4. mr.moneylover - Jul 21, 2015 at 3:02 PM

    This year we should see alot of play action…a few QB run plays…these kinda things will help the passing game….I think jay gruden last year was just tryna figure out what kinda guys he got on his team and yes he try to install his system with mike s. Players witch wasnt gonna work out…power run scheme fits well with the kinda players we have now…my only question is do we have the TEs and WRs to block ???

  5. redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 21, 2015 at 3:22 PM

    I hate to harpoon Gruden again but go back in look at the average ranking in rushing each year from when he started OC to came here as a coach. It is not a glowing endorsement of his resume. We at least had a decent running game with Shanahan but the decline came with Gruden’s arrival.

  6. kenlinkins - Jul 21, 2015 at 3:24 PM

    Rich: How often does a media type like yourself get into one of those “off-the-record’ chats with a position coach where you gain insight into areas like “was it a perfect Storm of poor O-Line , RB, TE blocking OR Poor QB play OR using a one cut RB in a power running system” in 2014? Is it more often or less often than the avg fan might think? (I would love to know just what the new O-Line coach thinks about the 2014 Redskins and what weakness he pointed out to the Dallas defense in 2014).

    • Rich Tandler - Jul 21, 2015 at 7:58 PM

      Not very often, a couple of times a year. I can tell you that I doubt Callahan will talk about 2014 even if off the record. He is not the type to throw anyone under the bus.

  7. redskinsnameisheretostay - Jul 21, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    After reviewing the stats from Rich’s link, I have to say it is very impressive to see AM with that many hits behind yet second best in yards carried after hit. Give credit where credit and do because AM got the most out of those scenarios.

    Also listening to Beniot commenting on RG3 is like listening to my nephew except my nephew is actually older. The guy is not even 30 yet.

  8. timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 21, 2015 at 6:22 PM

    Rich I just saw your Comment on the link I Posted. Since this article is about the link I Posted Wich you “Found” I figured I would repond here. Since almost all stats in football are dependant on other people’s play I get what you are saying. But with the same token when there are Multiple stats that make The Oline look Bad than More than likely they are Pretty Bad. Like you’ve said they wouldn’t have made the moves they made if this wasn’t true.

    I don’t put it all on the Oline but I do feel that they were/are the Biggest problem on this team and without improvement No one around them are gonna play better. ItAll Starys Up Front. They caused the Majority of the issues.

    • Skulb - Jul 22, 2015 at 2:17 AM

      Posting opinions as facts again I see. You don`t need stats, you just need to believe. Walt Disney football analysis right here.

      • timwillhidetimwillhide - Jul 22, 2015 at 9:19 AM

        That’s you that just post Opinions. I’ve posted many stats with the links to back them up. I’ve Posted Oline Rankings from Numerous sites Oline Individual stats. Infact Rich has Taken atleast 3 of the Articles I Posted Including this one and expanded on them. Exactly what have you done except Trash RG3 with nothing to back it up and then Dismiss what I Post as “made up”. I’mnot a web designer and I wouldn’t was my time making stuff up to prove you wrong

  9. goback2rfk - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:15 PM

    5 – 11

  10. gonavybeatarmy - Jul 21, 2015 at 8:23 PM


    This is excellent information.

    Is there more granular data on the hits in the backfield such as on the left vs right side of the OL? Is there a game or two that really skewed the data so negatively that perhaps in aggregate it wasn’t as bad as it appears on the surface? For example (from my poor memory), the Seattle game was a nightmare trying to run the ball. In fact, Cousins, if I recall correctly, had a pretty good game against a great Seattle defense despite having no credible run game that night. Cousins was something like 21/36 for 280+ yards with 2 TDs and no picks (I may be off a bit). And had the defense made a stop with three minutes remaining in regulation the offense would have had a chance to drive down the field late.

  11. ajbus1 - Jul 22, 2015 at 5:28 PM

    This and the rest of the PFF article should put to bed the notion that Morris is on the decline. The whole team has been in decline. There aren’t many players who are immune to bad play around them. I also thought it was interesting that Morris was high in the yards-after-initial-contact category. Even though he was getting hit early he was fighting. That should bode well for him in the added power scheme. If all the improvements come together as Rich pointed out, Morris will be here awhile. Archives

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