Morris encouraged by use, start to preseason

August 11, 2014

Alfred Morris. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND  –  As he watched the overhaul of the coaching staff unfold this past winter, Alfred Morris remained cautiously optimistic when he learned that Jay Gruden had retained offensive line coach Chris Foerster because he wanted him to keep the rushing attack intact.

That seemed to be the case based on what Morris saw, heard and experienced during the offseason program.

But at the same time, Morris remained well aware of the fact that across the NFL, the run game continues to wane in popularity. And because of that, Morris still had his reservations about Gruden’s game-day philosophies and plans for him.

The coach’s use of the Pro Bowl running back in the preseason opener set Morris’ mind at ease, however.

In the 10-play series that the starting offense played, Morris had his number called six times – five as a runner, and once as a pass-catcher. Morris rushed for 27 yards on five carries. The pass his way was an incompletion.

Morris kicked off Washington’s possession with a seven-yard carry, then on third-and-1 gained three yards, then followed that with gains of nine, and eight yards on consecutive plays.

Morris came away from the game with a sense of encouragement because of the way his coaches used him, and how he performed.

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said on Monday. “Being a running back, you want to have a chance to help your team succeed, and for them to come out and put it on the ground so much, plus have success, so they were like, ‘Hey, we’re making the right decision. We should keep doing this.’ Just to keep us involved, especially since running backs are being devalued around the league, just to have a new coach to come in and see our ability and allow us to go out there and have some fun, and to compete.”

As he enters his third NFL season, Morris, who has topped the 1,200-yard rushing mark each year, said he feels more comfortable, wiser and poised for even more effective play.

Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay plan to incorporate the running backs in the passing game more than Washington did in previous seasons, and because of that, Morris has worked to improve his pass-catching skills, spending extra time catching balls before and after practices.

Morris also believes that based on how Gruden plans to use him this preseason, he will enter this regular season better primed for success. Last season, because he wanted to protect Morris from injury, Mike Shanahan gave the running back only eight touches in two preseason games.

Morris got off to a slow start to the season, and he lamented the fact that he hadn’t gotten more preseason action. He believed that he still spent the first couple of weeks during the regular season knocking off rust.

Morris already has gotten off to a better start to the preseason and will get more action this preseason. He believes he will see the payoff at the start of the regular season.

“It was good to get in there and get my feet wet. Last year, I wasn’t able,” he said. “I’m the type of guy, as you know, the more I’m used, the better I get. So, just to get my feet wet early on in preseason, hopefully it progresses throughout the preseason and carries into the regular season.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

What’s ahead:

The Redskins practice twice today, at 8:35 and 4:10.

Also from The Post:

Da’mon Cromartie-Smith’s whirlwind 48 hours

Hall bruises back, expected to return soon

Williams, Hall, Hayward named preseason captains

Gruden: Thompson and Thomas need to get healthy again

Hankerson will meet soon with Dr. Andrews

Day 18 observations

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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