Alfred Morris Needs a Larger Role in the Washington Redskins Offense

David ShockeyContributor IISeptember 27, 2013

Sep 9, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at FedEx Field. The Eagles won 33-27.  Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Alfred Morris is one of the few true workhorse backs in the NFL.  After three disappointing losses, Morris is averaging only 13.3 carries per game compared to the 20.9 he racked up last year.  

The Washington Redskins must rely on Morris to carry the load while Robert Griffin III works his way back into Pro Bowl form.

The 2013-14 season has been nothing short of a disaster through three weeks.  A loss to the Oakland Raiders would drop the Redskins to 0-4 heading into the bye week. 

The pressure is on.

Last year, Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris were the two strongest weapons in Mike and Kyle Shanahan's arsenal.  It's apparent that Griffin lacks the speed he had last year.  With Griffin less than 100 percent, the offense needs to flow through Morris.

Morris looks as good as ever, and the stats back it up.  He currently has 225 yards on 40 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, a mark that puts him third among all backs with at least 15 carries, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).  

There's a good argument for the first two weeks that, after falling so far behind in the first half, the run game had to be abandoned.  Against the Detroit Lions there was no excuse.

Griffin had 50 pass attempts to Morris' 15 rush attempts last Sunday.  As reported by The Washington Post, Shanahan defended the offensive balance at his press conference Monday.

I think if you take a look at that ratio, you have to take a look at the total game. We had 22 passes. With 38 seconds left, we had five at the end of the [first] half. We had 17 at the end of the game...So, that’s the type of ratio we’re looking for. Once you get into two-minute situation, those numbers can get carried away one way or the other, and that’s what happened. But when you really break down a game, you’ve got to break it down, and you’ve got to look at it, and the run-pass ratio was right at 50 percent. That’s what we look at quite a bit—trying to keep that ratio fairly close to 50 percent if we can do it. Doesn’t always happen.


While it's true the run-pass ratio was fairly balanced in terms of numbers, Shanahan is leaving out a few details.  The run statistics are boosted by Griffin's six rushing attempts, only two of which came on read-option runs.  Discounting Griffin's four scrambles and the 22 passes Shanahan claims were situational, the final tally stands at 28 pass attempts to only 18 called rushes (Garcon had one carry).

Based on these numbers, Griffin passed on 60.9 percent of plays that were not pass-only situations due to late-game circumstances.  That ratio would be comparable to Andy Reid's Philadelphia Eagles of years past.

Griffin is being asked to throw at a record-breaking rate of 46.3 attempts per game.  This pace would give him 741 attempts for a 16-game season and top Matthew Stafford's record-setting number of 727 attempts from 2012.

Last year, Griffin threw 393 pass attempts in his 15 regular-season games.

All teams will at some point face circumstances that require them to use a pass-heavy attack.  But even in those scenarios, the Redskins still managed to run on 54 percent of the time in 2012.  Shanahan must take every opportunity to feed Alfred Morris so that even after the occasional two-minute drill inflates the passing stats, offensive balance still exists.

Sep 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) runs with the ball against the Detroit Lions in the second quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the lack of opportunity, Morris has shown improved speed and overall running ability.

In his 40 carries this year, Morris already has three attempts of 30-plus yards.  That's the same number he had in all of 2012, in which he toted the rock 335 times.

Morris has gone from a grinder who thrived on breaking tackles and picking up first downs to a playmaker who can take it to the house from any distance, as he did against Detroit.  Shanahan needs to get back to his roots as a run-heavy offensive coach.  This offense has an elite running back, and if the Redskins want to start posting marks in the win column, let me offer one piece of advice.

Run Alfred Morris.