The fact that Alfred Morris stands only 18 yards from reaching the milestone mark of 1,000 is a testament to his physical build, durability and work ethic, his coaches said this week.
“He has that type of body,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s 220 pounds. He’s strong. He’s very physical and he’s in excellent shape. They don’t make all bodies like that, with that type of power.”
The 23-year-old rookie ranks fifth in the NFL in rushing yards (982), sixth in attempts (208) and 14th in yards per carry (4.7) for the Redskins, who lead the league in yards on the ground with 1,799. He’s also been handed the ball at least 13 carries in each game.
Morris’ number of attempts is 195 more than the next running back on the Redskins’ roster, Evan Royster, who has 13. Quarterback Robert Griffin III, meantime, has 100 carries for 642 yards.
“That’s been the most impressive thing about him; he’s never hit a rookie wall,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “He runs so hard and I’ve never seen him wear down at all. He’s been strong all year.”
The numbers also show a correlation between the Redskins' record and Morris' workload. They’re 4-1 when he's handed the ball 20 times or more, and 1-5 when he's not.
Thirteen weeks into his first pro season, there have been no signs of Morris hitting the "rookie wall," the point at which rookie's body wears down from the increased strain and intensity of the longer NFL season. In fact, the sixth round draft pick is coming off one of his busiest weeks of the season. Morris carried the ball 24 times for 113 yards against the Cowboys – only four days after logging 20 attempts against the Eagles.
"You don't know for sure if a guy can carry the load," Mike Shanahan said. "It's hard. You take a lot of punishment as a running back. When you're carrying that ball anywhere from 15 to 30 times a game, it's pretty tough on the body. But you could see it from the first preseason game and through the preseason, he's a special back and he keeps getting better."
Morris’ career-high of 120 yards came Oct. 21 against the Giants – the Redskins’ opponent Monday night.
“I don’t know if he reminds me of anybody, but ‘The Bus’ comes to mind,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said Wednesday, referring to former Steelers’ running back Jerome Bettis. “He falls forward and gets three yards just from his head of steam.”
Physical gifts and experience aside, there are a couple more reasons Morris' trajectory has continued to rise: He’s learned to take better care of his body and has become a student of the craft.
“If you don’t care of your body in the NFL, especially as a running back, you have no chance,” Kyle Shanahan said. And “he keeps grinding on everything. He’s really quick to correct any mistakes he makes. He's really conscientious of stuff he struggles with. Anything he struggles with, he gets it fixed for the next game.”