The first two seasons resulted in big rushing yards and much acclaim. Not to mention a desire for more. Alfred Morris wants it; the Redskins say he can do it. More catches. More yards downfield. More production overall. Former running backs coach Bobby Turner would tell Morris that he was leaving yards on the field. Current running backs coach Randy Jordan delivered the same message.
“You can always find room for improvement,” Morris said by phone. “It’s good to have different coaches who can critique you more because they have an outside perspective.”
Morris has rushed for a combined 2,888 yards in his first two seasons. But he’s caught only 20 passes and both Turner last year and Jordan this offseason have told him he could gain more yards downfield, turning good runs into much longer ones.
First, the passing game. At the owners meetings, coach Jay Gruden said Morris could develop into a 20- to 25-catch running back. Clearly the Redskins would want someone else to handle the third-down role, whether it's Roy Helu this season or Lache Seastrunk in the future.
But with the weapons Washington has at receiver, Morris could be a forgotten man by defenses on early downs. Therefore, it would be wise for him to improve in this area. It’s not just about his hands, though. He said he needs to do a better job running routes against man coverage.
“My focus is building confidence in the quarterbacks as well as the coaches to let them know I can catch,” he said. “I know I can catch the ball.”
Gruden said, "Obviously we want to have him be an all-around back. His hands aren't the most natural, but it's something you can work on."
For Morris, it’s about winning more often on his routes. He said he talks to the receivers and even Helu about running routes.
“I can get better,” Morris said. “Sometimes you get that linebacker that’s real grabby and how to get away from them and set them up is something I never had much experience doing. [Helu’s] one-on-one routes where he wins, sometimes I’m like, ‘How did you do that?’ I always pick brains so I can better myself.”
As for more yards downfield, Morris did lead the NFL with 10 runs of 20 yards or more. He also had five carries that resulted in 30-plus yards, but only one that went at least 40. Morris was sixth in the NFL in yards per rush on those 20-plus runs (29.80), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Morris improved his agility last offseason; this offseason he’s trying to work on a mindset.
“Usually it’s a safety and me or a corner and it’s just making a guy miss to get an extra 2 or 3 or 20 yards,” Morris said. “It’s just being a smarter ballplayer. Sometimes I get caught indecisive in between moves or which direction [to go].”