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

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

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.

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.