Alfred Morris showed what he could do against NFL backups in the Redskins preseason opener in Buffalo.On Saturday night, Coach Mike Shanahan wanted to see what the rookie could do against another teams starters.The reviews were, well, mixed.On the Redskins first play, Morris displayed the one-cut, north-south style that complements Shanahans zone blocking scheme. After a sudden change of direction at the line of scrimmage, Morris burst through the left side and into the secondary for a 21-yard gain. On the next play, Morris ripped off six yards, this time running off the right tackle.It was a stellar start to an outing that ended rather quietly against a stout Bears defense that featured seven-time Pro Bowler Julius Peppers. Morris, a 5 foot 10, 218-pound Florida Atlantic product, finished with 34 yards on 10 carries four yards fewer than he had after his first five carries.I definitely could have played better, said Morris, who did not play in the second half. But it could have been a whole lot worse. I feel I did good overall.Morris was informed Friday by running backs coach Bobby Turner that he would be getting the first start of his young NFL career. With Tim Hightower still recovering from knee surgery and Roy Helu Jr. sidelined with tendinitis in his Achilles tendon, Shanahan wanted to see how Morris would fare against the likes of Peppers, Lance Briggs and Israel Idonije.If youre in the 90, youre in the competition to make the football team, Shanahan said when asked if Morris has a legit chance of claiming the Redskins No. 1 tailback job. I dont have guys out there just to be out there. We started Alfred today, and the reason we started him is that we wanted to see him against a really good defense and against a good unit.After gaining 38 yards on the Redskins first two series, Morris and the rest of the Redskins offense the patchwork line, in particular struggled. Morris was limited to minus-4 yards on his next five carries. Peppers and Idonije each thwarted him for no gain, while strong safety Major Wright dropped him for a two-yard loss and linebacker Blake Costanzo stopped him for three-yard setback.I dont think they made an adjustment; it was just a few things we were missing, Morris said. They have some great d-linemen and they were getting some penetration in the backfield, and that didnt help at all.Morris also accepted the blame for going out for a pass rather than staying home to block on the play where quarterback Robert Griffin III was sacked and fumbled.I had a blitzing safety that I misread, Morris said.As Morris acknowledged, his first NFL start could have been more productive. But also managed to remain philosophical about the steep learning curve hes facing.Life is a lesson, he said. You live and you learn.
This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.
The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.
It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis.
The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.
Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6.
With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too.
Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.
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The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.
NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.
Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.
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And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.
This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.
One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.
So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.
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Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.
This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.
Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on it.