The game did not work out the way Washington wanted, not in terms of the final score (obviously) or in terms of how much Alfred Morris touched the ball. If they’re going to win games, it must include success on the ground. And that means more Morris, even if Matt Jones is now around.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden blamed Morris’ lack of runs (six) and play time (career-low 12 snaps) on the game situation. Indeed, Morris received the first two runs of the second half but when that series ended with an interception followed by a New York Jets touchdown and 25-6 lead, the run game had to be abandoned.
Morris is not a threat as a receiver, not in situations where they must throw to catch up. But even in the first half Morris received only four carries to Jones’ 9. And Jones received the first carry of the game. A week earlier, he finished with one more run than Morris. Jones is more of a pass-catching threat and he played 26 snaps against New York; meanwhile, third-down back Chris Thompson played 39 snaps.
“We intend on splitting the reps up pretty good. Alfred should be the lead dog, though. It just didn’t work out that way,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of the New York game.
Though Jones appears to be a long-term answer, he still has plenty to prove. He’s now fumbled twice in the past two games, showing the need to consistently run lower and hold the ball tighter. He also has more burst around the outside, as he’s shown a number of times (on the play that ended with his fumble against New York, for example). Morris will never match that speed and being considered a two-down back ultimately limits his value (he's a free agent after the season). But he still serves a role as a move-the-chains runner and savvy veteran.
On Kirk Cousins' first interception, there appeared to be a botched play-action attempt with Morris going one way and Cousins faking the hand off to the other side. But Morris broke off because of a blitz coming to his side. The play resulted in a turnover nonetheless, but before that point Morris saved a likely sack.
It’s too simplistic to just say: Get him more involved. Game situations and Jones' presence dictate his play time. Jones is the shiny new toy and it'll be interesting to watch how the snap totals unfold in coming weeks. Still, the Redskins have a good situation at running back and that includes Morris. Having two backs who can surpass 100 yards on any given week is a nice thing to have.
“Alfred’s fine,” Gruden said. “He’s a good player for us and it’s unfortunate how it worked out. Catching balls out of the backfield and running routes is really not his forte. He's more of a ‘In the I-formation, running outside zone, inside zone and all that stuff.’ We didn't do a very good job of getting him involved."
If he gets more carries Sunday against Philadelphia, it’s as much because of how the game is going -- and his success running the ball -- as anything. The Redskins will continue to give Jones a lot of carries as they should. And Thompson will get the reps in games they must throw. That means Morris will have games when he seems an afterthought, even if he isn’t.