Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is one of the NFL’s most accomplished head coaches. Two Super Bowl titles as head coach of the Denver Broncos solidify that fact. Shanahan earned his reputation as a great offensive mind by transforming former Bronco running backs Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, and Mike Anderson into 1,000 yard rushers under his tutelage. Shanahan employed a zone blocking scheme for his previous Denver offensive lines that have been the main source of the success enjoyed by Davis, Gary, and Anderson.
Shanahan’s latest protégé is Redskins’ rookie running back Alfred Morris. Entering the 2012 NFL season, Morris was third on the depth chart behind running backs Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster. However, Shanahan declared the running back position an open competition. Morris seized that opportunity, parlaying that opportunity to become Washington’s starting running back.
Morris hasn’t looked back since. He has started each game for Washington in 2012 while gaining over 1,400 yards rushing. He is a tough, punishing runner that always seems to get positive yardage. The NFL average for yards per carry is around four yards. Morris averages 4.7 yards per carry in 2012. Morris’ presence helps quarterback Robert Griffin III considerably because defenses have to account for the running back.
Speaking of Griffin III, the presence of Morris opens up Washington’s play action passing attack. That allows Griffin III to survey the field and find open receivers in the intermediate passing game. In years past, the Redskins’ offense has become stagnant within the red zone, particularly in goal line situations. Those issues have subsided with Morris toting the pigskin. He has 10 rushing touchdowns, with only one of those touchdowns being longer than 10 yards. How’s that for red zone efficiency?
Doubters of Morris’ ability will say that it’s Shanahan’s offensive system, not Morris’ running ability, that has contributed to the rookie running back’s success in 2012. What the doubters fail to realize is that Morris routinely runs over opposing linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties alike in an effort to earn extra yardage. His physical running style transcends any offensive system. Morris doesn’t take off on breathtaking 80 yard runs like Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson. That doesn’t mean his production is any less important for the Redskins as Peterson’s is for the Vikings.
Washington is 9-6 with a chance to win the NFC East title Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys. If the Redskins are to win their first NFC East title since 1999, Morris will have to play a huge role against the Cowboys. If Washington does emerge victorious over Dallas, Morris being regarded as only a “system back” should be put to rest once and for all.
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