When the Redskins added running back Matt Jones in the third round there naturally were questions about what that means for the future of incumbent back Alfred Morris.
“Alfred won’t be affected,” said Jay Gruden soon after the team handed in the card with Jones’ name on it. “Alfred’s still the running back here. He’s had three great seasons and that won’t change, but to add another guy that can come in here and pound the rock a little bit doesn’t hurt anything. It’ll help Alfred in that regard taking some carries off of him, but for the most part, Alfred will be getting the bulk of the carries and Matt will get some too, obviously.”
Morris has been the lead running back every since the first game of his rookie year. Since the start of the 2012 season Morris has 876 rushing attempts while all other tailbacks combined have 144. Doing the math, Morris had 86 percent of the tailback carries. That’s a fairly high number in a league where running back by committee is becoming more and more common.
Jones won’t send Morris to be bench but he might get a few more carries than Roy Helu, Morris’ primary backup, did over the past two seasons. Helu, who left as a free agent in March, averaged 51 carries over 2013 and 2014. We may see Jones get more than that, perhaps twice as many as Helu did.
Some of those carries could come in short-yardage situations. In the past two years the Redskins have run 141 plays on third and fourth down. They ran 53 times (32.6%) and passed 88 times (62.4%). When the league as a whole ran a play on third or fourth and short the ratio was 45.2 percent runs, 54.8 percent passes.
One of the reasons the Redskins pass so often on short yardage is that their line was not built for it. Zone blocking is fine for first and 10 stretch plays but plays tend to get blown up in short-yardage situations. In addition, while Morris can break some tackles and make some defenders miss he’s not a move-the-pile type of player. Jones can be that type of back.
So it may turn out that Jones gets 100 or more carries this year without taking them all from Morris’ attempts. Some of those short-yardage passes could turn into runs with Jones toting the rock behind Brandon Scherff or Trent Williams.
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