When training camp began 2 weeks ago, the Redskins expected a trio of running backs to compete for playing time.After Thursdays preseason opener in Buffalo, a fourth contender has emerged: rookie Alfred Morris.Morris, a sixth round draft pick in April, led all rushers at Ralph Wilson Stadium, carrying the ball 15 times for 54 yards, including three runs that went for six yards apiece. Although the majority of those gains were made against the Bills reserves, Morris performance left Coach Mike Shanahan wanting to see more of the Pensacola, Fla. native.You can see hes got good running skills and hes got that forward lean, Shanahan said after Saturdays practice. Hes got good instincts. Its going to be fun to see him over the next three games, see if he still plays at a hard level.I anticipate he will, the coach added.Last week, Sports Illustrateds Peter King posted a potentially telling comment on his Twitter account the same day he visited with team brass at Redskins Park.Florida Atl rkie Alfred Morris solid darkhorse for RB job, Kings tweet read.Thursdays effort in Buffalo, it would appear, only enhanced Morris chances of posing a legitimate threat to incumbents Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr., who currently occupy spots 1-3 on the depth chart, respectively.Weve got a number of guys that can play in the National Football League, Shanahan said. As each game goes by, well get a chance to evaluate these guys more. But Morris sure didnt hurt himself.At 5-foot-10, 218 pounds, Morris boasts a no-frills, physical, north-south style that sets him apart from the others.You can see he puts his foot in the ground, said fullback Darrel Young, who has tutored Morris on details of the pro game, such as pass protection. A lot of guys cant do that. He can make one cut and get up field, as opposed to rounding a cut off.With five consecutive carries in the third quarter, Morris also displayed the workhorse reputation that helped define his career at Florida Atlantic. On that series, Morris made inside runs for gains of 6, 3, 3 and 6 yards before being stopped for a one-yard loss.It just shows my endurance and my willingness, no matter how tired I am, to play my hardest every single play, Morris said.Although he hoped to have a pass or two thrown his way, Morris said he was pleased with his performance against the Bills.My whole objective was to not make any mental mistakes and did just that, he said Saturday, as he participated in a time-honored rookie initiation, hauling Hightowers shoulder pads and helmet from the practice field to the locker room along with his own. I was able to show a little ability out there on the ground.The film revealed the type of runner I am, Morris added. Im a physical guy, Im a one-cut-and-get-north-south kind of guy. I have good balance, bouncing off tackles and have that willingness to get every yard possible each and every down.If he doesnt make the 53-man roster, Morris would seem to be an ideal candidate for the practice squad.Competition always makes us better, Morris said. With backs like that in front of me, its only going to make me better. Regardless of what happens, whether Im cut, whether they keep me, at the end of the day, if I knew I gave it my all, Ill be able to sleep that night.
The Redskins went into Lincoln Financial Field somewhat banged up. They left in worse shape than they were when they arrived.
The most significant injury seemed to be to guard Brandon Scherff. Coach Jay Gruden said that he had an MCL injury and that he will get an MRI on Tuesday. He left the game late in the third quarter and did not return. Scherff rarely takes plays off and the feeling is that he could have a significant injury. He headed to the team bus to the airport with a brace on the knee.
OT Trent Williams came into the game with a patella injury in his knee and he aggravated it late in the game, missing the Redskins’ last couple of possessions. He did not practice all week to rest the injury. We will see as the week goes by if the injury will allow Williams to continue to play.
OT Morgan Moses sprained both ankles and he returned to the game after each injury. He undoubtedly will be very sore tomorrow and we will see how he recovers.
The other reported injuries were more minor in nature, although they could cost the players some games. CB Fabian Moreau had a hamstring strain and he left the game. OLB Preston Smith, who has been one of the team’s best pass rushers this year, left the game with a groin strain. He attempted to return but he had to go back out. CB Josh Holsey had a chest contusion and he returned after going to the locker room to be examined.
Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 34-24 loss to the Eagles:
The Redskins have to keep the hammer down—They scored the first time they had the ball and then they had a few empty possessions. Washington took a 10-3 lead but the Redskins then got into the cycle of short, ineffective offensive possessions getting their defense back on the field too soon. The way Carson Wentz is playing, if you give him enough chances you will pay for it.
They won’t win if they don’t run—The running backs carries 14 times. Sure, the game got away in the second half, reducing their opportunities, but the rushing game was an issue throughout. In the first half they had a pair of third and ones and a third and two and they passed all three times. All three were incomplete, which led to the issues in the first item here. If the Redskins have a balanced offense they have a shot at beating almost anyone. If they don’t run the ball enough the odds are against them.
Redskins fans have the Cleveland Browns to thank for 10 years of Wentz—The Browns played Moneyball and traded the rights to draft Wentz to the Eagles. Like just about everything the Browns do, it didn’t work out. Now the Redskins, Giants, and Cowboys will pay for the Browns’ mistake for years to come. That run out of the pack of rushing linemen was both amazing and critical. It turned a punt back to the Redskins, who were down by seven, into a first down and an eventual touchdown.
The defense needs to get itself off the field—It’s easy to blame the offense for the problems with possessing the ball. But the defense could do its part, too, by getting itself off the field. At times, it feels like the Redskins’ defense is better than it has been in years but they gave up touchdown drives of 81, 80, 80, and 75 yards. At some point you have to show you’re better and get a takeaway or just make a stop to get off the field. Until then, the group has not improved in a meaningful way. I should note that the injuries have something to do with it, for sure. Dunbar did not play poorly but they pay Josh Norman $15 million per year for a reason.
There is a lot of season left to be played—The Redskins are 3-3 and two games away from the midway point to the season. They would have to rely on an Eagles’ collapse to win the NFC East but it’s entirely possible that they could. All but one other second-place team has three losses and the Redskins get their shot at the Seahawks in a couple of weeks. Fans have every right to feel frustrated after this loss but it’s not the end of the line. There still is plenty for this team to play for. Some of the injured players aren’t coming back but if they can round into reasonably good health in the next few weeks they still have a lot that they can accomplish.