The Washington Redskins were caught off guard last year when rookie running back Alfred Morris, a sixth-round pick, burst onto the scene with a 1,613-yard season, finishing second only to eventual NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
The Redskins are about to be caught off guard again in 2013, when Morris falls back to Earth and joins the rest of us mortals.
First and foremost, opposing defenses knew nothing about Morris during his rookie season. Especially as a sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic, most coaches had little to go on when game planning how to slow him down. Heading into his sophomore season, opponents have a lot more film to go off of when preparing to defend against Morris. After putting up over 1,600 rushing yards in one season, Morris will be a focal point in opposing game plans.
What else helped Morris be so successful in 2012 was the dynamic running ability of Robert Griffin III, who forced defenses to take him into account. While linebackers were keyed in on RG3, Morris was able to get the ball with minimal tacklers in between him and big yards. That’s a significant part of why he averaged 4.8 yards per carry during his rookie campaign.
If Griffin misses any time this season, though, opposing defenses will be much more wary of Morris’ presence in the backfield. Even with a capable backup in Kirk Cousins, defenses won’t have to worry about the quarterback taking off and can keep their eyes peeled for Morris. Can you say eight men in the box?
With the presence of two new running backs, Morris could also see his snaps decrease in 2013. The Redskins drafted ball-carriers Jawan Jamison and Chris Thompson this past April. If either of them proves to be worthy of touches, the rookies could cut into Morris’ playing time. We also can’t forget that Roy Helu is still in the mix for D.C.
The other factor to take into consideration is durability. Although injuries weren’t an issue for Morris during his rookie season, the fact that he carried the ball 335 times is a bit worrisome. In this day and age of the NFL, running backs simply don’t have the durability to get that many touches year after year. If the Redskins try to lean on him as much as they did in 2012, the chances of Morris wearing down increase drastically.
You can’t reasonably expect Morris, only 24-years-old, to turn in two phenomenal seasons in a row. He played a bit over his head as a rookie, and won’t be the same running back he once was… at least for one season.
I’m not saying that Morris will be bad in 2013. He just won’t be as good as he was in 2012. We’ll chalk his huge rookie performance up to beginner’s luck.