Alfred Morris’ lack of playing time Monday night was not related to injury. Rather, it was simply a coaching decision that was made on the fly, Jay Gruden said.
“I don’t think it was his ribs, no,” Gruden said, referring to the injury that knocked Morris out of the Carolina game. “I don’t think it had a lot to do with [not] being effective. I just think it’s the way the game played [out].”
Gruden continued: “We don’t really have a specific plan on how many carries we want each guy to get. We try to go with the flow of the game and go from there. It just so happened that Matt Jones had a couple good [runs early] in the game and we chose to play Matt a little bit more than Alfred. But moving forward, Alfred is still our No. 1 back and we’ll go from there.”
Morris played only eight snaps in the 19-16 loss to the Cowboys, and he did not log a carry after the first quarter. In all, the fourth year running back gained 12 yards on six carries.
Morris’ forgettable day against the Cowboys went like this: 3 yards, -1 yard, 2 yards (he slipped and fell), 3 yards, 3 yards, 2 yards. His final carry came on the last play of the first quarter.
The Redskins’ running game was all Jones from that point on, and the rookie finished with 49 yards on 18 carries (2.7 per). The final average was subpar, but he had important 10 and 9 yard runs on a second quarter scoring drive (a field goal that knotted the game at 3), which likely clinched the decision to stick with him for the rest of the night.
Jones’ 18 carries were his second most this season. The total also marked the seventh time this season that he’s finished more attempts than Morris, who is on pace for career lows in carries (188), yards (659) and yards per carry (3.5).
Gruden reiterated that the decision to roll with Jones was purely based on coaching feel and plan of attack, not necessarily Morris' rough start to the game.
“I think it’s game-dependent, series-dependent, play-dependent,” Gruden said. “A lot of times there’s certain runs that we feel like Alfred has more success at than Matt, and there’s certain runs we feel Matt is better at than Alfred. And some of the runs we had were of the outside variety, and maybe we want a little bit more speed in there and Matt was the choice or Chris Thompson.”
Gruden added: “ It’s play-dependent, series-dependent and, of course, game-dependent, and [Monday] night, for whatever reason, Alfred didn’t get as many touches as Matt. We started out with every intention of giving Matt or Alfred the ball. [Morris] had six carries early, I believe, and we just didn’t get back to him.”
As the Redskins fight to remain in the playoff mix over the next four games, it will be interesting to see how much run Morris, a pending unrestricted free agent, gets. Or whether we’re watching the quiet end of the Morris Era—an unthinkable scenario just a couple of years ago.