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Morris: 'I haven't made it yet'

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Morris: 'I haven't made it yet'

RICHMOND--The NFL is all about what you have done lately. It is also a league where if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. The status quo is not acceptable.

Alfred Morris knows all about that this year. In 2012 he rushed for 1613 yards, breaking the team record for a single season and becoming just the fourth rookie in NFL history to rush for more than 1600 yards. Morris believes that he is up to the challenge of being one of the league’s most productive backs again.

“You can always top production,” the Redskins’ sixth-round draft pick a year ago said on Thursday. “It comes down to willingness and, I guess, how bad you want it in a sense. I always hold myself at a higher standard and I love a challenge. It’s going to be tough to do that, but it is definitely not impossible to do.”

Precedent says that an encore to a powerful rookie season is not impossible but it is difficult. Of the three rookie runners who gained 1600 yards before him, only one actually rushed for more yards the following season.

George Rogers suffered the worst sophomore slump. After piling up 1674 yards for the Saints in 1981, injuries and a strike-shortened campaign dropped his output to 535 yards in year two.

After going for 1605 yards as a rookie in 1979, Ottis Anderson of the Cardinals had a very respectable second season with 1352 rushing yards. Still, that was a drop-off.

The only one who didn’t get worse was Eric Dickerson of the Rams. He set the rookie record with 1808 yards in 1983 and then topped that by setting the single-season NFL record with 2105 the next year.

Morris may not top the Hall of Famer Dickerson’s mark but he will try to get better by assuming nothing, not even his position at the top of the depth chart.

“To me, I’m not the starter,” he said. “I still have that mindset as if I haven’t made it yet. I know it sounds cliché to say that but, that’s just the way I approach everything. It’s a business. You never know what can happen, so I’m always trying to find way to better me.”

Coach Mike Shanahan doesn’t know if Morris will necessarily produce more yardage than he did last year but he can improve as a football player.

“There’s no question in my mind that he’s going to be one of the best backs because of how hard he works, what type of shape he’s in,” said Shanahan. “You can tell he’s confident just in running during the OTA days and even today. He’s going to be a guy that just keeps on getting better.”

An improved Morris would be very bad news for opposing defenses.

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Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Jay Gruden squashes perception that Alabama defenders don't produce in NFL

Alabama dominates college football in a way few teams ever have. In the last two seasons, the Crimson Tide has lost just two games, winning one national title and narrowly missing a second.

The strength of 'Bama, year after year, is their defense. Nick Saban coaches it, Nick Saban knows it, and Nick Saban demands the best from his players. 

Oddly, however, a few recent Alabama defenders drafted to the NFL have not produced. Or at least their production did not match their draft status. 

It's not too hard to pick names that fit that perception. Rolando McClain. Terrance Cody. Dre Kirkpatrick. And at running back, Trent Richardson didn't help.

Still, the Redskins invested heavily in the Tide during the 2017 draft. Their top two picks played for Saban's defense last year, and Washington coach Jay Gruden does not buy any part of the perception that 'Bama products regress in the NFL.

"I don’t see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama," Gruden said late Friday night.

The 'Skins selected Jonathan Allen in the first round and Ryan Anderson in the second. Both guys started on the Tide's front seven, and both players dominated.

"They come there and they are well coached. Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it’s different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that’s from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball."

The perception, right or wrong, has two main positions. The first is that the Alabama defense looks so good because it is full of five-star recruits. When everyone is good, or great, on the college level, it's hard to truly judge any singular player's game tape. The second is that Saban is so exhausting, so demanding of his players, they arrive to the NFL with too many reps.

For those around the NFL, both theories are laughable. Pro scouts know game tape. How else can they judge a future first rounder when he matches up against a walk-on? And for every alleged 'Bama bust, think about Haha Clinton-Dox or Landon Collins or C.J. Mosley or Dont'a Hightower. 

Might some Tide players get overdrafted because of their success and high profile? That's a different conversation. What's certain is the Redskins are quite confident in both of their Alabama draft picks.

"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X’s and O’s and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Redskins focus on defense through three rounds in the NFL Draft

Coming into the offseason, there was plenty of talk coming from the Redskins organization that the team needed to upgrade the defense. Those who have been following the team for a while have heard this for many years now. However, usually the talk is just that, with more draft capital and free agency money going to the offense year in and year out.

But this year things are different.

The lion’s share of free agent spending went to the defense. They added linemen Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, linebacker Zach Brown, and safety D.J. Swearinger. Now they have started off their draft with a laser focus in the defensive side of the ball.

RELATED: Redskins add cornerback with first round talent, but injuries pushed him to the third round

In the first round, they were delighted to take Jonathan Allen, the top-rated defensive lineman on their board. In the second round they went with outside linebacker Ryan Anderson, a teammate of Allen’s at Alabama. Then in the third round the pick was cornerback Fabian Moreau out of UCLA.

It’s been 20 years since the Redskins have gone so heavy with defensive picks at the top of the draft. Not since 1997 have they taken defensive players in the first three rounds of the draft. That year they took DE Kenard Lang, LB Greg Jones, and LB Derek Smith in rounds one, two, and three, respectively.

We will see how much impact the three draft picks have on the defense and, as Redskins fans have learned over the years, an influx of free agents on defense doesn’t guarantee improvement on that side of the ball.

But at least the Redskins organization is putting its money, and its draft picks, where its mouth is and that has be considered a positive development.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins make it two Alabama defenders in the 2017 draft class so far

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.