Redskins’ Alfred Morris doing more with less in second season

Alfred Morris leads the NFL with 5.2 yards per carry. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Alfred Morris leads the NFL with 5.2 yards per carry despite ranking seventh in rushing attempts. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Used in a more limited capacity for much of the season than he was last year, Alfred Morris appears to have resumed his role as workhorse back for the Washington Redskins’ offense.

In his last two outings, Morris has carried the ball 25 times for 121 yards and 26 times for 139 yards, respectively. Those two performances marked the first games of the season with 20-plus carries for Morris, who through the first seven games averaged just 15.4 rushing attempts per game.

The two-game stretch marked Morris’s most productive back-to-back showing since Weeks 13 and 14 of the 2012 campaign, when he rushed for 124 and 129 yards respectively.

That production served as another reminder of how effective Morris can be when given the opportunity.

Morris this season has proven an ability to do more with less, but Redskins coaches have maintained that their goal is to continue to feature a run-heavy offensive attack. Morris’s carries have gone down this season, however, and his coaches have blamed Morris’s limited workload on slow starts by the entire offense, which have forced them to play from behind which forced them to pass more.

Washington has, however, seemed to opt for a more pass-heavy attack this season, even when the game is in reach. Through nine games, the team has 346 pass attempts this season where as last season, they only threw the ball 442 times all year.

But since the Week 7 matchup at Chicago, Washington seems to have made a more concerted effort to feed Morris the ball.

He received what at that point represented a season-high 19 carries and gained 95 yards in the 45-41 win over the Bears, and then gained 93 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the loss to Denver. Then came the two 20-plus carry days against San Diego (a win) and Minnesota (a loss).

Despite what had been a reduced role, Morris had remained effective. Although he is on pace to rush for fewer yards than last season’s total of 1,613, he has actually shown improvement.

This season, Morris leads the league’s running backs at 5.2 yards per carry. Morris’s total of 825 yards are third-most behind LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch despite the fact that his 159 carries are seventh-most in the league. Morris also boasts an NFL-best eight runs of 20 yards or more.

Last season, Morris ranked ninth in the NFL at 4.8 yards per carry and had nine rushes for 20 yards or more. He ran the ball 335 times (third-most in the NFL). Morris this season is on pace to gain 1,466 yards on 282 rushing attempts.

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said that Morris’s ability to do more with less is a reflection of maturity and improved vision and understanding of the game.

“He’s a lot more comfortable,” Shanahan said. “I think guys that go into the second year, they feel – not only have they gotten in great football shape but they know what to expect. I think it’s a little bit easier on him to make reads and feel more comfortable with the system and what he’s doing. He works extremely hard at it.”

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