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Alfred Morris prepares to take advantage of his opportunity

To make the Cowboys' roster, Alfred Morris must improve his grasp of the playbook. Todd Archer/ESPN

IRVING, Texas -- Alfred Morris saves money like his roster spot is forever in jeopardy, which makes sense if you think about it.

It's the reason why the four-year veteran still drives his beloved 1991 Mazda 626, which is the kind of car you usually find a high school senior driving.

The car speaks to Morris' mentality: dependable, reliable and consistent.

He's a former sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic who burst onto the NFL scene with 1,613 yards, a 4.8 yards-per-carry average and 13 touchdowns.

But his yards per season and average per carry have decreased each of the past three seasons, culminating with 751 yards and a 3.7 average in 2015.

It marked the first time in Morris’ career he failed to gain 1,000 yards or average 4.0 per carry. And that's part of why the Washington Redskins opted not to re-sign him, which is how he wound up with the Dallas Cowboys.

He signed a two-year deal worth $3.5 million to compete with Darren McFadden for the starting job -- or least share the carries with him.

Then the Cowboys used the fourth pick of the draft on Ezekiel Elliott, reducing the odds that both McFadden and Morris will be on the roster in September.

At least that's how it looked like the situation would play out until McFadden broke his elbow. Now, Morris has an opportunity to solidify his spot on the roster because McFadden will miss about three months.

“You never want anyone to get hurt; I haven’t thought about it as an opportunity because I thought the coaches did a good job splitting our reps and giving everybody an opportunity to showcase what they can do,” Morris said. “With him gone, it doesn’t change much honestly.

“What it does change is that we don’t have our leader in the room -- that savvy vet that’s been doing it for quite some time.”

Coach Jason Garrett likes Morris' approach to practice -- and his approach to the game -- based on watching him play against the Cowboys the past four seasons.

So does the Cowboys’ pro scouting department, which recommended him. To make this roster, though, Morris must improve his grasp of the playbook.

“I feel like they jumbled three or four playbook together, so I’m starting to get it,” Morris said. “I want to get to the point, where I can play a little faster without having to think.

“I have a lot to learn [because] a lot has been thrown at us so I’m studying at home, studying between meetings and things like that.

“The hardest aspect is the protections. You can run the ball and catch the ball, but if you can’t protect the franchise [Tony Romo], then you’re no good to them. You have to be able to cover every scenario, because if you can’t, you’ll find yourself on the bench real fast.”

Lance Dunbar is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last October against New Orleans, and sixth-round pick Darius Jackson intrigues the Cowboys with his combination of size and speed.

Running back is one of the deepest positions on the roster, which means it would surprise if Morris made the team, didn’t make the team or was traded just before the season.

Whether he’s playing in Dallas or somewhere else, Morris’ approach to saving money or playing won’t change.