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Need to Know: What is Morris' future with the Redskins?

Need to Know: What is Morris' future with the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 15, 15 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

What is Alfred Morris’ role on the team, both this season and going forward?

This question isn’t from a particular tweet or Facebook post. It’s a combination of about half a dozen that have rolled in lately asking about Morris’ future. So I figured I’d roll them into one and take a look at Morris situation. I have to warn you going in that there are more questions than answers right now and a lot has to play out before we know what will happen with him.

For the last three years he has been the unquestioned prime back for the Redskins, getting most of the running back carries with just a few sprinkled around for Roy Helu, Evan Royster (in 2012), and Silas Redd. Since Morris came into the league only Marshawn Lynch has more carries and more yards.

The big picture is fine but his production has gone down year by year. In 2012 he set the Redskins record with 1,613 yards but he posted just 1,275 and 1,074 in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Although his carries also declined each season, so have his yards per carry, from 4.8 to 4.6 to 4.1.

Of course, Morris should not shoulder all of the blame for the drop in production. Robert Griffin III was a tremendous running threat in 2012 while the last two seasons defenses have been able to focus on Morris. The offensive line is not as bad as many fans believe but it’s also not a great asset to him.

We’re all familiar with the past but what’s going to happen going forward? There are a few factors in play here. One is that this is the final year of Morris’ contract. Another is that Helu has left as a free agent so there is an opening for Morris’ main backup and third down back. And there is talk that the Redskins are going to shift to putting an emphasis on a power rushing game rather than the zone scheme that Morris rode to so much success over the last three years.

The draft is deep at running back so the Redskins could go there for Helu’s replacement. But if they draft a back somewhere in the top half of the draft, are they going to want to use him for more than the 40 rushing attempts that Helu got? Will the rookie back—or an in-house option like Redd or Chris Thompson—cut into Morris’ carries? The Redskins are one of the few NFL teams that has one back carrying so much of the load. We could see a job sharing arrangement with a more dynamic back getting 10-12 touches per game.

We’ll have to see how Morris performs behind power blocking, if he can hit the hole quickly and pick his way through the line. I tend to think that he’ll do just fine but it’s hard to say until he actually does it consistently. And keep in mind that they will still run plenty of zone plays; Gruden has emphasized that they’re not shifting to all power run plays.

The depth and Morris’ effectiveness will come into play next year when Morris will be a free agent. If the Redskins do find a good back in the draft, one who can be a receiving threat out of the backfield, or if Redd or Thompson performs well, will they want to move on and cast their lot with the younger, cheaper, lower mileage back? Would Morris want to stay if there is a reduced role?

It’s also possible that Morris performs well in 2015, the Redskins are happy with him as their primary running back, and he signs a new contract that is satisfactory to both sides.

As noted in the beginning here there are many more questions about Morris’ future than there are answers. But that applies all but perhaps a handful of players on the roster. When you’re on a team that has won seven games in the last two years, got a new head coach a year ago and a new GM this year, it’s the way things are.

Timeline

—It’s been 108 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 151 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 5; 2015 NFL Draft 15; Redskins minicamp starts 62

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

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New #RedskinsTalk Podcast: Comparing Redskins training camp with the New England Patriots

After a poor first preseason showing and some questions about the physicality of Redskins training camp, JP Finlay talks with Patriots Insider Phil Perry from CSN New England to discuss the differences between Washington's camp and how they run things in New England.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

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Redskins Playbook: Jay Gruden calls Ryan Grant "Mr. Consistent"

Few Redskins players draw more heated fan reaction than Ryan Grant. In three seasons with Washington, Grant has never missed a game, but he also hasn't produced much. His career stats: 39 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns. 

Regardless, Jay Gruden and the Redskins coaching staff appreciates Grant in a way few fans understand. Grant is able to back up both the slot and outside receivers, and knows the roles of all the players.

"He’s really strong, he’s in great shape, and he’s Mr. Consistent," Gruden said of Grant. "Everything we ask him to do he does, and he does it right."

When Jamison Crowder missed time in Richmond with a hamstring strain, Grant stepped into Crowder's slot role. When Josh Doctson hurt his hamstring and missed time, Grant stepped into his role on the outside of the offense.

Throughout camp, Grant has displayed good hands and an adept knowledge of the offense. 

"No matter where he lines up, no matter what we ask him to do, he can come in the core and block the safety, whatever we want him to do, he can run whatever route from whatever positon and he runs at the right depth, perfect angles coming out of them," Gruden said. "He’s just ‘Steady Eddie,’ and that’s why I like him. I like consistent, smart players and that’s what Ryan is."

Against the Ravens in the Redskins first preseason game, Grant hung on to a tough catch over the middle to give the team one of very few offensive sparks. The problem for fans as it relates to Grant has not been preseason play. It's been inconsistent play in regular season games. 

Gruden believes that could change this year.

"I think people may be surprised with how many balls Ryan Grant might catch. Either way, could happen, I don’t know. I can’t foresee the future there, but I would be just fine with Ryan Grant being the target of a lot of balls."

To state the obvious: Grant is definitely making the roster. Behind Terrelle Pyror, Crowder and Doctson, Grant is the Redskins fourth wideout and one of the few players on the roster that is interchangeable among the Washington receiver positions. 

Grant's career best season came in 2015 when he caught 23 balls for 268 yards and two TDs. Based on his preseason, it seems Grant could surpass those totals in 2017. Much of his early season work has been a result of injuries to Doctson and Crowder, but make no mistake, Grant has been impressive in practice. 

Will it translate to the real games? The opprotunity seems only likely to arise if the Redskins deal with injuries at the receiver spot. 

Last year, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards, but DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon accounted for more than 2,000 of those yards. Doctson, Crowder and certainly Pryor are likely to be the major recepients of Cousins' aerial prowess. Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson accounted for another 1,618 yards last year.

Keep in mind, this is the last year of Grant's rookie contract. If there was ever a time to show in games what coaches have long seen and loved in practice, this would be the year. It seems only an injury would give him a major opportunity. If the situation came to pass, Gruden would have faith in Grant. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!