Are the Redskins phasing out Alfred Morris?
One of the team’s best, most consistent players over the past few seasons has seen his carries go down from game to game this year. He had 25 rushing attempts in Week 1 against the Dolphins, 18 against the Rams the next week and just six on Thursday against the Giants.
Meanwhile, after getting just six carries in his Week 1 NFL debut, rookie Matt Jones has had more carries that Morris in each of the last two games. He had 19 against the Rams and 11 in New Jersey on Thursday.
So what about Morris’ workload, especially against New York?
“Well, the fourth quarter was the fourth quarter,” said Jay Gruden when asked about Morris. “Third quarter, we only had one drive in the third quarter. They held the ball for I think like eight minutes on their opening drive. So, he didn’t get many opportunities in the second half obviously because of the score. We didn’t have many offensive snaps there, and when we did, there was passing pretty much and that’s Chris Thompson’s role. First half, kind of the substitution pattern fell the way it did. You know, it was nothing against Alfred, it was just it was Matt Jones’ turn on a couple of those reps and we gave him some carries. We intend on splitting the reps up pretty good. Alfred should be the lead dog though. It just didn’t work out that way.”
By the time the Redskins got the ball in the fourth quarter they were trailing 25-6. Third-down back Chris Thompson played most of the snaps. They ran just twice in the period so there was no opportunity to give the ball to Morris.
In that lone third quarter possession, Morris carried on the first two plays, gaining eight yards. Jones carried once for no gain later. The drive was moving along nicely into Giants territory but Kirk Cousins threw an interception to end it.
In the first half, though, when the game was relatively more competitive, the carries favored Jones. The Redskins’ first offensive snap came with an empty backfield but Jones was the first running back to take the field so you could say he started the game. The rookie had nine carries compared to four for Morris.
I think that this game could end up being an anomaly. Gruden used that “lead dog” phrase all offseason to talk about Morris’ role. But it also is easy to look at Jones’ talent, his rare combination of size, power, and speed, and think that Gruden has to find ways to get him on the field.
It’s also impossible to ignore the contract situations of each player. Morris is in the last year of his rookie contract and he will be looking for a healthy free agent deal in the spring of 2016. Jones is locked up at very low annual salaries through the 2018 season. Some conspiracy theorists out there think that the coaching staff will underutilize Morris this season so that the team can justify a lowball offer to him next spring.
But I don’t think the coaching staff is all that worried about the 2016 salary cap right now. If they don’t win at least half a dozen or more games this year, Gruden and company may not be around in 2016. During the course of the season they will deploy their assets at running back in the way that will they believe will win them games in 2015. That may end up being more snaps for Morris than for Jones or vice versa. The chips will fall wherever they fall.
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