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.