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.