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In RG3's shadow is Morris, Redskins' other rookie

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In RG3's shadow is Morris, Redskins' other rookie

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) On third-and-one, Robert Griffin III faked an up-the-middle handoff to Alfred Morris - and the New York Giants fell for it big-time.

``They all just crashed down on me,'' Morris said. ``When that happens, I really just laugh in the pile. `Ha, ha.' I was thinking, like, `Y'all dumb, y'all tackled me, but the quarterback is running down the field.'''

Morris' acting job on Griffin's 46-yard scamper might have been the best example of how the Washington Redskins rookie backfield tandem is driving defenses crazy. It's hard enough to account for a dual-threat quarterback with world-class speed, but there's also the sixth-round draft pick from Florida Atlantic who is tied for third in the NFL with 1,106 yards rushing.

In another time or place, Morris would be the newest sensation - the kid who emerges from an 1-11 college team and instantly becomes a cog in the No. 1 rushing offense in the pros.

Instead, he's been eclipsed by the supernova known as RG3.

``It's a good thing for me, because I really don't like the limelight,'' Morris said. ``I just love playing the game. I don't really need any outside attention. Not to say dump it on him, but he can have it all.

``People feel like I'm in the shadow - I don't feel like I'm in the shadow. I'm thankful that he's my quarterback. And I'm glad that we get an opportunity to be rookies together, to grow together. I hope it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship, and that it goes on for quite some time.''

That's not to say Morris is shy or withdrawn. He talks a mile-a-minute, especially when the topic turns to old cars or movies, but he'll happily settle for the occasional ``You da man!'' shout-out when he's out in the community when compared to the nonstop adulation heaped on Griffin.

``Robert, he can't go anywhere,'' Morris said. ``I'm surprised he even makes it to the movies.''

Morris also knows his road to NFL success was hardly guaranteed. He was far from a sure bet to make the roster when he arrived at training camp to compete with Tim Hightower, Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster. A 107-yard preseason effort against the Indianapolis Colts, who were playing their starters for much of the game, put Morris in the running for the starting job and confirmed to him that: ``I know for a fact I can do this.''

Now he has five 100-yard rushing games, including a season-best 124 in Monday night's 17-16 win over the Giants that raised Washington's record to 6-6 ahead of Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens.

``I didn't think I'd touch the field until around the fifth or sixth game,'' Morris said. ``Maybe I'd get in there and get a couple of snaps. If I told you I'd known it was going to happen this fast, it would have been a lie. But I'm just thankful that it did.''

Morris has also become known for his 1991 Mazda, affectionately known as ``Bentley.'' He thought he was going to have to park it for the winter when the battery died while he away for a few days after Thanksgiving, but a warm spell has persuaded him to keep driving it to Redskins Park every day.

If ``Bentley'' does give him more trouble, Morris said he'll probably lease a car or get a ride from his roommate, a friend from middle school who happens to work at a pharmacy in the area.

Morris' dream car, however, is a 1964 Impala.

``I'm going to get one, one of these days,'' Morris said. ``I want to build my '64 Impala from the ground up.''

If the Impala runs as well as its owner, it'll be in good shape. Morris averages 4.8 yards per carry with a long of 39. The book on him is that he'll take a play that's blocked for three yards and get six, but that he's not someone who will break one for 60.

``They keep saying that,'' Morris said. ``But don't be surprised if it happens.''

Morris is also emphatic that he's not going to hit the so-called rookie wall, having learned the rigors of life in the pros in a hurry.

``All the stuff I didn't do in college, I do now,'' Morris said. ``I never stretched in college. I was stiff as a board. ... I'm not going to hit a rookie wall. I don't mean that to be, like, arrogant or anything. It's the truth. I've been taking care of my body, and mentally I'm prepared for anything.''

And, while Griffin continues to get most of the publicity, Morris is also learning more about the role model responsibility that comes with being a productive NFL player. He shared a letter he received this week from the family of Michael Denis Morlino, a Redskins fan from Virginia who died in October at the age of 11.

``He just took a liking to me,'' Morris said. ``I don't know why.''

Morris said he plans to frame the letter. He said he was particularly touched by a quote Michael's family found written in pencil on a piece of paper in the boy's room: ``Arrogance leads to failure. Success is derived from patience and humility.''

``So much negative stuff going around,'' Morris said. ``Kids need someone positive to look up to.''

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10 Questions in 10 days: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

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10 Questions in 10 days: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

It might be hard to remember now, but there was a week late last season for the Redskins where most informed people considered Kevin O'Connell on his way out. The talented young quarterbacks coach was being pursued by Chip Kelly to be offensive coordinator at UCLA, and the smart money suggested O'Connell would take the job. 

Except he didn't. 

O'Connell decided to stay with the Redskins and continue to work on Jay Gruden's staff. In turn, Washington promoted O'Connell to passing game coordinator, a new title that likely means much more involvement in game-planning. 

Working for Gruden comes with some perks. Sean McVay ran the offense for Gruden for a few seasons and landed a prime head coaching job with the Rams. McVay has plenty of his own talent, but throughout the NFL, Gruden's offense is widely respected. 

How will O'Connell's influence shape things this fall?

Consider that he deserves some credit for Kirk Cousins improved play out of the pocket in 2017. Now combine a coach that schemes plays for QBs on the move with new Washington passer Alex Smith, a strong runner and serious athlete, and this offense could look much more mobile in 2018. 

Gruden still has the final call on gameday, but O'Connell's voice will matter this year, more so than before. Bill Callahan and Matt Cavanaugh retain their roles and prominence in the offensive game-planning, for sure, but as Washington imports more run-pass option plays and QB movement, know that O'Connell is playing his part. 

Things will look different with Alex Smith running the Redskins offense than they did with Kirk Cousins at the helm. 

Just remember, O'Connell didn't turn down a job in Hollywood for no reason. 

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best receivers the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 17, nine days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best pass catchers the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the pass catchers are up. They are roughly ranked 2017 receiving yards, although I did some juggling based on offseason moves and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teams and quarterbacks

Julio Jones, Falcons—Somehow the perception is that he had an off year in 2017 even though he still had 1,444 yards receiving. His touchdowns were down; his total of three TDs was a career worst for a full season. Still, he’s a beast to try to cover and even if you have him perfectly covered he can still make the catch on you. 

DeAndre Hopkins, Texans—Despite working with some shaky quarterbacks, Hopkins has managed to gain over 1,100 receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. He is a highlight show regular and his 13 touchdowns led the league in 2017. 

Michael Thomas, Saints—The third-year player doesn’t have high name recognition outside of New Orleans and maybe fans of the other NFC South teams. Defensive coordinators certainly don’t sleep on him. Thomas is as consistent as they come, posting nine games with 80 or more receiving yards last season. 

Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals—I keep wondering when he will show signs of his age (he’ll be 35 before the season starts). He didn’t last year, posting 109 receptions despite the fact that his quarterbacks were an aging Carson Palmer plus journeymen Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. 

Mike Evans, Buccaneers—At 6-5, he is able to physically beat most cornerbacks. Evans will turn 25 just before the season starts and he got a five-year, $82.5 million contract extension. He is worth every bit of it. If Jameis Winston gets a big contract (something that is up in the air right now), he owes a good chunk of it to Evans. 

Best of the rest: T.Y. Hilton, Colts; Davante Adams, Packers; Alvin Kamara (RB), Saints; Zach Ertz (TE), Eagles

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 9
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 23
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 46

The Redskins last played a game 198 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 54 days. 

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