Alfred Morris’ snap count declining for right reasons

Washington RBs Alfred Morris and Matt Jones have the potential to pack a powerful one-two punch.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Alfred Morris’ snap count declining for right reasons


One of the biggest reasons to be optimistic about Washington’s offense heading into the 2015 season was Alfred Morris.

In 2012, Morris was the third-highest graded runner in the league; however, we’ve witnessed a steady decline since then, with the exception of an uptick at the end last year. From Week 9 and on in 2014, he was a top-10 halfback on the ground. 24 players missed tackles on him during the second half of last season, tied for sixth most in the league.

With Roy Helu now in Oakland, it seemed likely Morris’ role would increase. That’s why it was a bit surprising to see Morris only play in 15.6 percent of snaps during  Thursday’s night game against the Giants.

Part of the reason for the small snap count was the game situation. With Washington losing for most of the game, they needed to pass more—meaning more time for Chris Thompson. Morris’ competition for snaps is more with Matt Jones, who saw 26 snaps, compared to Morris’ 12. It was especially telling that Morris was never on the field for more than two consecutive plays, while there were six times where Jones had three or more consecutive snaps.

Through three games, Morris has graded out better than Jones by a small amount, in large part because of Jones’ two fumbles. Had it not been for those mishaps, Jones would have a slight lead in the grades.

It’s very likely that Morris and Jones will continue to split time, without one ever taking the full role; the reason being that they excel in different areas. Morris is great at running between the tackles, where he has 5.2 yards per carry. When Morris has tried running outside of the tackles, his average drops to 2.9.

Jones is the opposite, with 7.1 yards per carry outside the tackles, and 3.0 between them. If these splits continue, it makes a lot of sense to utilize the strengths of both backs. If that’s the case, and Washington is losing more, than their winning, Morris will continue to see less than one-fourth of the team’s snaps.

On one hand, it’s disappointing that we may never see Morris play as well as he once did. On the other hand, these two players can become something Washington can build around. With better run-blocking, the team can be more successful early in games, which means they can also run more late in games. Morris and Jones have the potential to be a great one-two punch, if the players around them step up.

| Director of Analytics

Nathan has been with Pro Football Focus since 2010. He is the Director of Analytics, an NFL analyst, and a fantasy writer.

  • crosseyedlemon

    A running back that is only effective either inside or outside of the tackles is probably not going to be around long unless he can make himself useful as a receiver out of the backfield or as a return specialist.

    • John C

      Right .. That’s what happened to that big, monster back from KC years ago ..He was a beast but no hands and took a big pounding out of the backfield – from Nigeria ..Lasted about six, seven years ..

  • Andy

    Trade him to Falcons where Shanahan knows how to use him.

  • Broncoswyo

    Morris isn’t rapidly declining, Gruden’s common sense is. Similarly to RGIII, Morris is finding his role rapidly disappearing because the coach doesn’t want to utilize players that he didn’t hand select. Gruden is an idiot on a power trip, similar to when Josh McDaniels was hired in Denver. I hope Morris finds a better team next year with a head coach who has a clue. Matt Jones might be good, but throwing a rookie out to fumble on the goal line is bad coaching at its finest. I hope Skins lose out until Gruden is fired. He never deserved the job to begin with. That’s why you don’t promote a guy to head coach with only two years of coordinator exp on his resume. He’s not his brother

    • crosseyedlemon

      George Allen wasn’t a big fan of rookies either. I think he had the Redskins trade their first round draft pick something like 10 years in a row.

      • John C

        One year he traded his second round draft choice for Tattoo from Fantasy Island … but, but G. Allen always won….

        • crosseyedlemon

          George Allen was mentored by George Halas so there was never really any question that he would go on to be a great coach too. He’s always been one of my favorite coaches because he would constantly fight with Redskin management to get more benefits for his players….be it a pay raise, better training facilities or better health care. Players around the league had great respect for Allen and those who played for him always gave 100%.

          • John C

            George Allen was a great coach and had a great mentor in George Halas.. All of his players had an undying loyalty for him and would run through a brick wall for him .. He was the 1st head coach to hire a full time special teams coach who was Dick Vermeil and said that special teams are worth at least two, three wins a year … He was right ..

    • John C

      Right — Gruden didn’t pay his dues ..Cinn. : W-L record vs material is awful ..Their head coach isn’t much better either …

  • John C

    Think Morris has lost a 1/2 step the last two years from the pounding he took ,not that he ever had blazing speed out of college ..Still a prime time back though..The average shelf life of RB has decreased a lot during the last decade ..Marshawn Lynck has held up well — so far … HTTR ! ! …

  • John C

    Most coaches want their RB to catch more ball out of the backfield ..Like a flair pass ..Morris caught a few in the exibition games but haven’t seen any catch since the regular season started ..Know Matt Jones is a rookie but Gruden should call a few flair passes out of thge backfield .. Don’t know what kind of hands he has …

  • Mike Ryan

    Sucks that Morris will never see a big pay day given all his production! I’m a huge fan and he’s been nothing but class, production and model player. I hope he gets paid since he could be the leading rusher in Skins history if he keeps rushing for 1,000 each season.