Kirk Cousins' Start Will Hinder Redskins Running Back Alfred Morris

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Kirk Cousins' Start Will Hinder Redskins Running Back Alfred Morris
Photo courtesy of: Redskins.com

2012 has been a dream season for Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris.

Entering Sunday's game in Cleveland, he's the NFL's third-leading rusher with 1,235 yards. But with fellow rookie Kirk Cousins slated to start in place of injured quarterback Robert Griffin III, Morris may be in for a rude awakening in Ohio.  

Call it a hunch or just mere speculation, but I've got a bad feeling about Morris' chances for big yards against the Browns.

Here are the reasons for my concern:

 

Scheme Changes

RGIII's command of Washington's pistol-style offense has been a sight to behold this year. With its vast array of bootlegs and sprint-option fakes, it has bewildered opponents and benefited the down-hill running of Morris.

The Browns won't have to deal with ball fakes by Griffin on Sunday. (Tom Pennington/Getty)

But with Cousins at quarterback, the Redskins will revert to a more traditional offense with an emphasis on inside runs and play-action passes.

With Griffin as his field general, Morris is often two steps ahead of defenders before they realize he has the ball. That won't be the case with Cousins, who is a pure pocket-passer and not a threat to run.

 

Browns' Underrated Run Defense

Cleveland is ranked eighth in the AFC in run defense and looked dominant in Weeks 10-12 against the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Oakland Raiders. The Browns limited the Cowboys to 63 yards rushing, while the Steelers had just 49 and the Raiders 85. Cleveland also shut down Cincinnati's rushing attack twice this season (80 and 76).

The Browns like to get after quarterbacks. (Brandon Wade/AP)

As a whole, the Browns defense as been stout as well. In the last six weeks, Cleveland has held its opponents to an average of just over 15 points per game. Cleveland has also applied significant pressure with 34 sacks and 12 fumble recoveries on 14 forced fumbles.

The Redskins don't turn over the ball very often, but that may change this week with Cousins making his first career NFL start.

 

Joe Haden's Blanket Coverage

The Redskins will run to set up the pass, but completions may be hard to come by. Browns' star cornerback Joe Haden isn't often fooled by play action, and he'll match up well with Redskins' No. 1 receiver Pierre Garcon.

Joe Haden is a shut-down corner in every sense of the word. (Brandon Wade/AP)

With touchdowns in three consecutive games, Garcon has played extremely well despite a sore foot. But he'll have to outpoint Haden to take the pressure off the Redskins' backfield.

If Garcon is taken out of Washington's offensive equation, Cousins may get gun-shy and Morris will find it all that much harder to run against the Browns.  

 

All Eyes on Morris 

According to RotoWorld's Adam Silva, Sunday's matchup projects to be an "Alfred Morris-heavy game." But the ex-Florida Atlantic star will have a daunting task if Cleveland stacks the box with eight-man fronts. That will make for tough sledding and likely force Cousins to beat the Browns with his arm. 

As Silva points out, "Morris is performing in a manner that suggests he can shoulder an offensive load, with 698 yards on his last 138 carries (5.06 YPC)." But Cleveland's focus won't be on Cousins like it would be on Griffin, and that could be the Browns' perfect recipe for slowing down ALMO.

 

Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo BillsWashington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage 

Unless otherwise noted, all player and statistical information is courtesy of Redskins.com, CBSSports.com and the National Football League.


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