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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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#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

As the Redskins settle into the offseason without both an offensive and defensive coordinator, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler debate who will get the jobs, and when they will be announced. 

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Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Jason Tarver

The Redskins have interviewed some high-profile candidates for their open defensive coordinator position. When it was reported that they will meet with former Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, the reaction among the fans was, “Who?”

Let’s take a look at what Tarver’s qualifications are to get the job of running the Redskins’ defense.

Before becoming a coordinator: At the age of 22, Tarver took a coaching job at West Valley College in California, and did that while earning his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Santa Clara. After that he was a graduate assistant at UCLA for three years before getting into the NFL in 2001, when the 49ers hired him as a quality control coach. Tarver worked his way up to outside linebackers coach in 2005 and did that job until 2010, when he was let go went Mike Singletary was fired as the head coach. After a year as the defensive coordinator at Stanford, Dennis Allen hired Tarver to run the Raiders defense in 2012.

More Redskins: Early first-round draft possibilities

Note: If you want more complete stats on Tarver’s defenses check out his page on Pro Football Reference. DVOA stats via Football Outsiders. A negative DVOA percentage is better than a positive number. Zero is average.

For players, * designates Pro Bowl selection, + designates first-team All-Pro

2012 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,672 (18th), points 443 (28th), takeaways 19 (26th), 3rd down 39.1% (20th), DVOA 12.5% 29th
Notable players: DT Richard Seymour, DE Lamarr Houston

It should be noted that Allen had a defensive background so he had a hand in these numbers. This team just wasn’t very good as indicated by the fact that Seymour, at age 33, was one of their best defensive players.

2013 Raiders (4-12)

Rankings: Yards 5,918 (22nd), points 453 (29th), takeaways 22 (21st), 3rd down 43.1% (28th), DVOA 10.3% (26th)
Notable players: S Charles Woodson

They did make an effort to shore up the defense by bringing back Woodson and drafting cornerback D.J. Hayden in the first round. But Hayden only played in eight games and Woodson could only contribute so much at age 37. The pass defense struggled, ranking 29th in DVOA.

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

2014 Raiders (3-13)

Rankings: 5,721 (21st), points 452 (32nd), takeaways 14 (30th), 3rd down 38.5% (14th), DVOA 6.3% (26th)
Notable players: LB Khalil Mack, S Woodson

Allen was fired after an 0-4 start and Tony Sparano took over as interim head coach the rest of the way. Sparano has an offensive background so perhaps Tarver is more fully accountable for these results than those in other seasons. They did draft Mack with the fifth overall pick but his impact as a rookie was limited as recorded four sacks. Hayden again missed half of the season and, again, the defense was near the bottom of the NFL.

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