Mike Shanahan has always had an affinity for picking running backs in the middle to late rounds of the annual draft. His run-heavy version of the West Coast offense, which he adopted from Bill Walsh's dynastic San Francisco 49ers teams, has always used unique backs behind strong offensive lines.
With Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, Shanahan may have found his new 1,000-yard rusher.
When you think of Mike Shanahan-run teams, backs like Terrell Davis, Clinton Portis, Reuben Droughns and Tatum Bell come to mind. All those rushers have topped 1,000 yards at least once while playing for Shanahan, and seemed to flourish under his guidance.
Morris, for his part, earned the starting nod during the preseason and took that in stride last week, rushing for 96 yards and two scores. With Robert Griffin III looking like a seasoned veteran, the offensive load will not be heaped onto his shoulders.
The 23-year-old Florida native did carry the ball a league-high 28 times on Sunday, which, despite being a heavy bulk for a rookie, did not seem to tire him out. He even seemed to grow stronger as the game progressed.
Even with that impressive performance, Morris struggled in the first half against the Saints, totaling only 21 yards on nine first-half carries. He came back out after halftime and looked refreshed, but there was clearly a few yards left out on the field in the beginning of the game.
Even so, Morris looked poised throughout and will make it difficult for second-year backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster to see significant playing time.
Shanahan is known to stick with one back when that guy becomes productive, so if Morris shows more of his Week 1 production this weekend, he could get used to touching the ball 25-30 times a game.
For now, Shanahan and the Redskins have to be extremely happy with the production they are receiving from their young offensive stars. Griffin looks to be the real deal, and with Morris showing power and elusiveness early on—and against a pretty good team in New Orleans, to boot—there's no reason to doubt he'll continue to improve.
He may not be Terrell Davis, but after one week, it's safe to say Alfred Morris is Shanahan's new favorite toy.
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