Is Alfred Morris Really This Good or Just a Product of the Redskins System?

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2012

September 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) is tackled by New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins (27) during the second half of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Since Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Washington Redskins have placed Roy Helu on IR, Evan Royster is day-to-day, and the team signed former Green Bay Packer Ryan Grant to fill the void.

At least for the next couple weeks, fantasy owners of Alfred Morris don't have to worry about getting shafted by Mike Shanahan. Morris is the clear-cut starter, and there's no other "hot hand" to go with. The series of events this week also has fans of the Redskins wondering if he is Shanny's next miracle.

Is Alfred Morris the next Terrell Davis? Let's be honest: that's really what we're asking here.

That's not an easy question to answer. However, the similarities between the two are striking.

Terrell Davis was selected in the sixth round of the 1995 NFL draft and started the first game of his rookie season. He was 5'11", 206 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds.

Alfred Morris was selected in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft and started the first game of his rookie season. He is 5'10", 218 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds.

I'd say that's pretty darn close, and they also share the same running style. Like Davis, Morris stays patient, allowing time for a hole to open up. He isn't flashy or fast, but he hits the seam and goes, bulldozing defenders along the way.

Again, that's a lot like Davis.

Then again, that's the kind of back that's needed in Shanahan's system. That begs the question, "Is Alfred Morris really this good, or just a product of the system?"

The true answer to that question is a disappointing "both."

I'm sorry, but it's true. He doesn't have the moves and speed of Adrian Peterson, or the receiving ability of Ray Rice. He simply doesn't appear to be "elite."

But did Terrell Davis? With his long touchdown runs and all the yardage he put up while healthy, I would have never guessed his 40 time was 4.7. He certainly never looked slow to me.

According to The Washington Times, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the following about Morris:

A lot of those fast guys, it’s like they’re playing on ice sometimes . It takes them a while to stop and then they’ve got to re-situate their hips, and they get going again. Alf is very similar to Terrell Davis in that way. Terrell wasn’t a fast guy, but he hit that hole, and if there was a lane, he found that crease, and he was gone.

Stretch runs have a way of doing that. The offensive line pushes the defense toward the sideline, then the back cuts up the field. The misdirection causes overpursuit, making it hard for the defense to recover and catch the back.

In turn, running backs look faster in this system, breaking off big chunks of yardage.

It really comes down to receiving out of the backfield and pass protection—that's what will make Morris a complete back. Davis was one of the best running backs in the league at blocking. He also caught 49 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season.

Alfred Morris is steadily improving his pass protection with each week. As Shanahan's confidence rises in Morris' ability to block, so does his chances of keeping the starting spot in the backfield. Rest assured, he won't allow that aspect of his game to be his downfall.

As far as catching passes out of the backfield, I don't know what's going on there.

Morris has yet to pull in a reception this season. He also only totaled 30 receptions through his entire collegiate career at Florida Atlantic. That's less than Terrell Davis had in just his rookie season in the NFL.

Are his hands that bad?

However, 263 yards in his first three games as a pro is nothing to gloss over. Neither is the way he runs over people and lunges forward for that extra yard or two. He may be a "one-cut back," but this rookie has a little shake in the open field, too.

Kyle Shanahan also told The Washington Times:

Game speed is about carrying your pads. It’s pressing blocks, putting your foot violently in the ground, and how much can you accelerate out of the cut? Alf is a guy, who, when he puts his foot down, he actually gains momentum from that. He can put his foot in the ground and explode out of it and actually be faster coming out of a cut than he was going into it.

It's only a matter of time before he breaks a big one.

Alfred Morris is every bit as good as he looks right now. His production isn't going to plummet because he is a consistently positive runner. The dancers get busted in the backfield and then break off huge runs with their speed.

Morris simply keeps his momentum going forward. A two-yard gain is better than getting stuffed in the backfield.

In summation, Alfred Morris is a perfect back for this system. He has excellent vision and patience, good feet, great explosion off the cut and an innate ability to bounce off tackles. Because of this, he will continue to be a very productive starting running back for the Redskins.

However, his game isn't complete yet, and he would definitely look less impressive in another system. Becoming a receiver out of the backfield could drastically change his outlook, as he would become a viable weapon in any system.

Will he be an all-time great? Probably not. But in this system he can certainly put up the numbers to make it look that way.