Nothing is more symbolic of the NFL’s uncertainty than the rise of second-year running back Alfred Morris. Revert back to one year ago today where Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said that his starting running back for the season opener against the New Orleans Saints was a “secret”.
Sure Morris had provided glimpses of a back that could run for somewhere around the 1,000-yard mark, but was the franchise really going to entrust a guy who wasn’t even expected to make the final 53-man roster? A blocking fullback prospect that started training camp fourth on the depth chart behind Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster and Tim Hightower was really going to start in the same backfield as reigning Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III?
Fast forward 365 days later and there’s no question that Alfred Morris had one of the greatest, and unexpected, debuts in NFL history. When you’re mentioned in the same breath as Eric Dickerson and former greats like Terrell Davis hold their breath every time Morris touches the ball knowing something spectacular is going to happen, you know you are doing something right.
Throughout the offseason Morris’ placement on top [insert number here] lists has come into question, but there’s no denying that he’s one of the best players in the NFC East going into 2013. Dan Graziano, ESPN NFC East blogger, has Morris eighth on his top 20 players list.
As Redskins fans know thanks to his widely popular ‘Bentley’, Morris is one of the most humble players to ever wear the burgundy and gold. While it’s been known since—well–about Week 2 last year that Morris is going to be the starting running back in 2013, he admitted during training camp that he has the same mindset last year that helped him get to the position he’s in now.
Besides, how else do you come up with Alfred 2.0?
“To me, I’m not the starter. I still have that mindset as if I haven’t made it yet. I know it sounds cliché to say that but, that’s just the way I approach everything. It’s a business. You never know what can happen, so I’m always trying to find way to better me. I’m always trying to find ways to continue to outwork everyone.”
Morris was used sparingly during preseason, only seeing action in two games and recording only eight carries as Shanahan wants to make sure that his now star running back is in peak physical form–both powerful legs and homerun swinging arms—starting next Monday so he can get a front row at seeing a whole lot of this:
Graziano’s take on Morris is something similar to that of his 2012 campaign.
There’s no reason to think, barring injury, that Morris’ effectiveness won’t continue this year. He runs hard. He shows patience. He adds yards because he runs with a strong forward lean and always falls forward at the end of his runs. He fits Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking run scheme perfectly, as a guy who embraces the “one-cut-and-go” mentality. Should you expect 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns again? Maybe not, but it’s not as crazy as you might think. The Redskins want to lead the league in rushing again, and with Morris happily playing a quiet second fiddle to Griffin, they have the perfect guy to help them do that.
As for said individual statistical projections—does anyone remember how many yards were accumulated on the ground en route to the franchise’s three Super Bowl victories? All they remember is how many wins it took to get them there.
“I don’t worry about stats. The only stats I really look at is wins and losses. A lot of people, they don’t realize that when you put team first anyway, individual accolades will come. Individual stats will come. I definitely don’t focus on that. A win for me this year? If we go past the first round of the playoffs, that’ll be a win. That’ll be a successful season for me. So, that’s what I’m focused on – team.”
Hopefully by February, nice guys finish first for a change.
Tags: Alfred Morris, Robert Griffin III
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