Alfred Morris was a man amongst boys at Florida Atlantic University. His size, speed and power was unmatched in the Sun Belt Conference. But because his production came mostly against smaller schools, he dropped until the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Fortunately for the Redskins, the sixth round is where Mike Shanahan earns his paycheck finding stud running backs. Most notably, Super Bowl MVP Terrell Davis was taken in the sixth round while Shanahan was with Denver.
Even with Shanahan's pedigree, it was surprising to see him take a running back with Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Roy Helu playing well the year before. But after three preseason games, Morris is the only completely healthy back on the roster
The most impressive aspect of Morris' game is his ability to avoid negative plays. Even when he was constantly hit in the backfield against Chicago, Morris was able to get back to the line of scrimmage and avoid moving backwards.
That ability showed itself again in the Colts game, where Morris was never stopped for less than three yards and never went down on first contact.
With a running back averaging 7.6 yards per carry, Robert Griffin III always had manageable third downs to convert and could afford to take a few shots downfield on first and second down. That kind of production in the backfield opens up the offense and forces the defense to play the run.
Even if the Colts were playing run, they simply could not stop Morris in the open field. Too often he would bounce off two or three defenders before finally being brought down in the secondary.
Morris doesn't have breakaway speed, but neither does Hightower or Royster. He is much better in pass protection than Helu and just as good as the other two. He doesn't have an issue with fumbling and has never been injury prone.
With both Helu and Royster banged up, and Hightower still working his way back from injury, an argument could easily be made for Morris being the safe pick to begin the season as the starting running back. Last year, four different running backs started a game for the Redskins. There's no reason that won't happen again.
After two starts, Morris feels good about his progression in picking up the blitz, one of the most important duties a running back must perform in this offense.
“I made no mental errors. I picked up all my blitzes, which is what I missed last week,” Morris said in the postgame press conference. “You know, I hold myself at a high standard and I was upset with myself for missing that. (Against the Colts) I picked up all my blitzes and I even helped some of the other guys when guys shaded off them, so I definitely got a lot of contact out there.”
The one area in which Morris needed definite improvement was picking up the blitz, and it appears that he has done that. He could get better at catching out of the backfield, but that will come with practice. He never got many reps as a receiver in college.
Morris is a perfect fit for a one-cut zone scheme. He is a natural runner who excels at breaking tackles and cutting up-field. He also has great vision
Regardless of when he starts—and it's safe to say he will—it will be interesting to see what Morris does with his opportunity. He has all the physical tools to be successful, and if the Colts game was any indication, he definitely should be.