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

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

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

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.