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Alfred Morris Muscles In On Redskins Playmakers

July 25, 2014

The toy box seems overflowing, but running back Alfred Morris says the Washington Redskins can't forget what's most important.

"If you don't have a ground game, you don't have any game," Morris said. 

The Redskins have a high-powered passing scheme after offseason signings of receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts along with NFL-leading receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. Quarterback Robert Griffin III mostly talks of distributing the ball among the foursome. 

Asked who was the most important player on offense, coach Jay Gruden chose Griffin, but Griffin chose the running back. Either way, there are plenty of choices. 

"We have a lot of playmakers," Gruden said. "It's just a matter of what do you plan to come in and stop? Are you going to try to stop the run and worry about us stretching the field? Or you going to try to stay back and worry about and let Alfred Morris beat you? So hopefully the ability for us to do a little bit of everything is our biggest advantage right now. Now, it's just a matter of doing them good."

The NFL is a passing league. The days when a running back carried a team in the playoffs -- such as John Riggins leading Washington to Super Bowl glory in 1983 -- are mostly finished. Last year, none of the NFL's top five rushers reached the Super Bowl. But Morris won't be overlooked, as he sometimes seemed to be last season. 

When Gruden was the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator in 2013, he didn't have a top 20 runner. The team finished tied for 27th in the NFL in rushing at 3.6 yards per carry. But the Bengals didn't have a runner like Morris. After a team-record 1,613 yards as a rookie in 2012, Morris followed with 1,275 yards in 2013 on 4.6 yards per carry. 

But it was an erratic year with low workloads caused by large early deficits. Morris carried 16 times or fewer during nine games. Only twice did he carry 25 times or more, because Washington often needed to pass during the second half.

Still, Morris' touchdown salute in the end zone is just what Washington needs. For every 20 questions Gruden receives about the passing attack, maybe one is about the running game. Yet, there will be plenty of times this season when Morris will be the key. 

With a suspect secondary, Washington needs to manage the clock during the fourth quarter. Last season, the Redskins were passing to get ahead. With this offense, they should often be ahead during the final quarter. The question is whether they can keep opponents from stealing wins during the last minutes. By Morris running the old "Riggo Drill" of first downs grinding the clock, the offense protects the defense from quarterbacks such as Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick and Seattle's Russell Wilson during the waning minutes.

The best defense is a good offense? Only if Morris runs it well.

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