When the name "Donovan McNabb" is uttered in Washington, fans shudder. For all the good that Mike Shanahan has done in D.C. since his arrival, McNabb's flameout as quarterback ranks up there with Albert Haynesworth's despicable tenure as one of the team's worst moves of the last decade.
Yet, in a sign of the changing fortunes of the club, McNabb's failure yielded an immense amount of good. When Washington smartly traded him to Minnesota in 2011, they received a sixth-round pick that materialized into the 173rd selection in the 2012 draft.
That was the day that Alfred Morris became a Washington Redskin.
All Morris did was set a franchise record for rushing yards in a season as a rookie, plowing his way to 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. In a year where Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins stole the headlines in Washington, Morris became arguably the best and most important player donning the burgundy and gold.
This begs the question: will Morris even approach the same success in 2013?
It may not seem like it, but gaining 1,600 yards on the ground in a season is a very rare feat. Fifty-one players in NFL history have done it, and only 12 of those players have done it more than once, meaning Morris would enter some very, very good company if he managed to do it again.
In fact, only seven players have ever gone for 1,600 yards in back-to-back seasons, so chances are Morris probably won't set the world on fire again. Remember, he needed 200 yards in his final game to get to his ultimate yardage total.
1,600 yards in consecutive seasons
That doesn't mean he won't be spectacular, though. Morris should be expected to run for anywhere between 1,200 and 1,400 yards; his body can take the punishment and he's playing behind an offensive line that really only has one question mark at right tackle.
In addition, the Redskins' offensive schemes lend themselves to a runner like Morris. On one end, you have the finesse of RGIII as a threat to run from out of the shotgun; on the other, there's the bull-like style of Morris who can break tackles, as well as find openings in the secondary.
There are concerns over his workload though, as he carried the ball 335 times as a rookie and accounted for 91 percent of the yards gained by Redskins' running backs—who, for all intensive purposes, were non-existent due to the dual-threat option that RGIII provided.
That's where things get interesting. There are differing opinions about whether or not the Redskins should scale back on RGIII's tendency to run. If they lean towards keeping him in the pocket, there will have to be a dependable second option at running back or Morris will inevitably hit a wall, or worse, suffer a debilitating injury.
If Washington can groom an adequate back to take 8-12 carries away from him on any given Sunday, we might be looking at another monstrous season from Morris. Be it Roy Helu, Jawan Jamison or Chris Thompson, someone will have to be there to ensure Morris will stay fresh as the season goes along. And, of course, RGIII will always gain yards on the ground, limited or not.
This means Morris probably won't get as many carries as he did in 2012. With that decrease in touches comes fewer yards. But that doesn't mean he'll have any less of an impact. Morris is the motor that makes the offense run, and the constant threat he poses makes defenses scramble on pass plays and run plays alike. While he might post less-impressive stats, he'll be every bit the contributor he was as a rookie.
In 2013, we will learn if Alfred Morris is a legitimate franchise back or a one-hit wonder. He won't surprise the league this year—he's on every NFL team's radar now—and will have to fight even harder to make an impact. But if 2012 was any indication, Redskins fans are in for a treat, courtesy of one of the most exciting young players in the NFL.