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Redskins' Morris was frequently stopped before he could get started in 2014

Redskins' Morris was frequently stopped before he could get started in 2014

You don’t have to look very deeply into Alfred Morris’ numbers to realize that 2014 wasn’t a banner year for him. He averaged just 67 yards per game, quite a decline from the 101 yards per game he gained as a rookie in 2012. Morris did have 70 fewer carries in 2014 than he did in 2012 but he also averaged 4.1 yards per carry last year compared to 4.8 as a rookie.

There has been plenty of talk that Morris needs to be more productive this coming season, which also happens to be the final year of his contract. The team spent a third-round draft pick on running back Matt Jones and it appears that he will be give plenty of opportunity to make his case to be the No. 1 back in 2016.

But Morris can’t do anything without help and I found one article that indicates that he didn’t get nearly enough of it. Earlier this month Pro Football Focus ran a post looking at which running backs were hit in the backfield the most often in 2014. And right there near the top of the list was Alfred Morris.

According to the analysis, Morris took a handoff and was contacted before he reached the line of scrimmage an astounding 70 times, 26.4 percent of his rushing attempts. That was sixth in the league on a percentage basis. Although they don’t rank the raw numbers, it’s hard to imagine many backs getting hit in the backfield more than 70 times.

This feeds into the notion that the Redskins’ offensive line was a mess last year and that anyone from Jim Brown to Adrian Peterson would have struggled to put up impressive numbers behind that group.

And there is no question that the line needed to get better. That is why the Redskins paid premium dollars to bring in Bill Callahan, one of the best O-line coaches in the business. That is why they spent the No. 5 overall pick on right tackle Brandon Scherff and drafted two other linemen in the later rounds. The organization also decided to move on from right guard Chris Chester and promote Spencer Long to the starting spot there.

But getting hit in the backfield on a running play isn’t always the fault of the five offensive linemen. Sometimes tight ends, receivers, and the fullback don’t execute their assignments. The defense could load the box at times and have more defenders than the offense has available blocker. The loaded box frequently happens when the quarterback is struggling; the Redskins had a trio of QB’s who went through extended rough patches.

And sometimes the blame goes on the runner. Morris did say last year that he was not always hitting the right spots all the time. If the runner is going to one place and the offensive line thinks he’s supposed to be in a different place the play will frequently break down.

It should be noted that runners getting hit in the backfield is a common occurrence in the NFL. The running back who got hit early the least was Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs and he got hit 13.2 percent of the time. The PFF article doesn’t give complete data so it’s impossible to say with accuracy what the NFL average is for backfield hits. But eyeballing the top 10 and the bottom 10 I’d say that 20 percent is a reasonable estimate. If that’s the case and the Redskins were an average team in this regard then Morris would have been hit early on 53 of his 265 carries.

Like most areas of concern with this year, fixing just one aspect of the problem isn’t going to get done. For Morris to get a better chance at gaining positive yardage several areas need to improve, including the runner himself.

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Defensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Defensive line

Starters: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Phil Taylor
Other roster locks: Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier
On the bubble: Matt Ioannidis, A.J. Francis, Joey Mbu

How the defensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: The addition of Allen is a boost but the losses of Chris Baker (free agent) and Ricky Jean Francois (released) can’t be overlooked. Second-year players Lanier and Ioannidis should improve and Hood will be a rotational player instead of a starter, a role better suited to his ability. Andi new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will get the most out of them. The key to improvement will be McClain and McGee. If the two free agents live up to their contracts the line should be better than it was last year. If not, they will struggle again. Slightly better

To the rest of the NFL: But let’s not mistake an improved Redskins D-line for one of the better units in the league. While it’s tough to compare a 3-4 line to a 4-3 front, it still would be quite a leap for the Redskins to move from the bottom of the pack to the lower middle. Tomsula inherited a multi-year rebuild; one draft pick and a couple of free agents are not going to transform the line into a force. Bottom third

RELATED: 2017 OUTLOOK: WIDE RECEIVER

2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Since I used his name in conjunction with that of Dave Butz above, that has to be Allen. He has both the physical ability and the mental makeup to be a very, very good one.

Most to prove: Nearly every player on the line has something to prove but only Phil Taylor has been out of football for the last two years. He has worked his way up from a brief retirement to a futures contract with the Redskins to a roster long shot to a probable starter. But he still only has 21 preseason snaps under his belt and he has a long way to go before he reestablishes himself as a legitimate NFL player.

MORE REDSKINS: REDSKINS-PACKERS MUST-SEE PHOTOS

Rookie watch: The only rookie with a realistic shot at making the roster is Allen. His Nick Saban-Alabama background has him well prepared to handle the scrutiny that comes with being a top draft pick and the expectations that come with playing in a place like Washington.

Bottom line: The best-case scenario here is that Taylor anchors the line in the middle, Allen’s learning curve is short, Lanier contributes six sacks in a nickel role, and the rest of the players make up a good rotation. Anything more would be a big bonus. Anything less would be back to being one of the worst defenses against the run.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Phil Taylor:

Well, I’ll tell you, I was in Cincinnati for three years when he was at Cleveland and I know what a force he can be at nose. He was tough to deal with, he really was. We had him for a workout, and I didn’t even know he was on the streets. His knee looked better. He was in good shape. He had a whole offseason and did some good things. I think his body is finally back to where he feels really good. He’s moving around, he’s active, he’s strong, so I like where he is right now. He’s just got to continue to maintain it.

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.

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Ranking the best Redskins Players to follow on Twitter in 2017

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CSNMA

Ranking the best Redskins Players to follow on Twitter in 2017

The 2017 NFL regular season is almost here. When Week 1 arrives, you will need to be ready for the 16-game grind. There is no room for error.

Following the NFL is not a job solely for the couch potatoes anymore.

It's for the bloggers, keyboard warriors and —sadly — Twitter trolls.

But that's what makes modern day sports consumption so much fun. The players are part of the conversation too. 

With the preseason wrapping up, CSN is here to provide you with a guide to the Redskins players on Twitter. 

Before we get to the breakdown, be sure to follow us — @CSNRedskins — on Twitter. We're pretty dang good too. 

Best Redskins Players to Follow on Twitter for 2017

Su'a Cravens — @Sua_Cravens (128K followers) — The second-year safety is arguably the Redskins' most proficient and outspoken player on Twitter. He responds with fans, doesn't hold back, and hits you with a ton of random thoughts. Did we mention that he speaks his mind, like, a lot? If you could only follow one player on the Redskins, we'd suggest you follow Su'a. 15/10, would follow.

Will Compton — @_willcompton (40.4K Followers) — Your girlfriend's favorite Redskin (Sorry, Ryan Kerrigan), is one of the most active players on Twitter. He has over 18,000 tweets, ranging from jokes, highlights, opinion and even some political discourse. He doesn't #StickToSports, much to the chagrin of Twitter trolls everywhere. But he does love to clown on his teammates when he get's a chance.

A.J. Francis@AJFrancis410 (11K followers) — The former Terp is a fan favorite and is as active on Twitter as any player on the team. If he's not promoting his rap album, he's tweeting about pro wrasslin', sports, movies, and — well — everything else. A personal favorite around these parts. Highly recommended. 

Josh Norman — @J_No24 (193K followers) — Josh Norman is outspoken on the field, at the podium and on Twitter. But he'll only clap back if you muddy up his timeline with ignorance. Otherwise, he's all about giving back, being fun, and soccer. Lots of soccer.

Vernon Davis — @VernonDavis85 (1.95 Million followers) — The veteran TE and former Terp is the unequivocal leader in the clubhouse when it comes to followers. He has almost has more followers than the rest of his team ... combined. Davis' account gives you a behind-the-scenes pass to his life, his goodwill efforts and life as a star NFL player. He's an ambassador, not just for the Redskins, but for pro athletes.

Junior Galette — @JovaisG (54.2K followers) — Galette has yet to make an impact on the field due to injury, but he's one of the most frequent users of Twitter on the Redskins. Come for the volume, stay for the #RealTalk. Galette is a high-volume user who doesn't mice words. It might not always be SFW, but it sure will be entertaining. 

Niles Paul — @NilesP_ (64.7K followers) — Niles Paul tweets. A lot. If you're one of those people who hates it when your timeline gets flooded by one person, the Redskins TE might drive you crazy, but his Twitter account is worth the follow. He's a wild man. He doesn't pull punches and shares every meme under the sun. 

Phil Taylor — @PhilTaylor98 (53.4K followers) — The DMV native and newest addition to the Redskins' defensive line is an all-around good dude and avid user of Twitter. He shares content, keeps you update on what he's up to and really just knows how to use Twitter properly. Not many pro athletes know how to, but Big Phil does. 

Mason Foster — @Mason_Foster (26.8K followers) — The reason I really like following Foster? He tweets like a sports fan. He watches games and tweets about it. It's not a difficult science, but it's nice to see that an NFL player is just like me.

DJ Swearinger — @JungleBoi_Swagg (72.3K followers) — If you want to stay updated on all things Redskins from a social media standpoint, the Redskins' offseason free agent signing is worth the follow. He RT's a ton of social content and is always willing to dish it out. 

Tress Way — @Tress_Way (14K followers) — Tress Way is a very nice dude. In fact, he might be THE NICEST dude. He's friendly, funny, just all-around pleasant. He also likes trivia (He created his own board game), which is a HUGE PLUS. 

Kirk Cousins — @KirkCousins8 (172K followers) — The Redskins' star QB isn't a frequent user of Twitter, but as the team's most high-profile player, his 140 characters carry weight.  He's honest, thoughtful and surprisingly self-depracating.

Joey Mbu — @NotoriousMbu (3.4K followers) — The DMV-born nose tackle mixes it up with fans and reporters. Not in a bad way, tho. He interacts, he engages. He shares his opinions. He does a good job. 

Bashaud Breeland@Bree2Land6 (24.2K followers) —You know what you're getting with Breeland. He's a firery guy and shoots from the hip. You don't want to hear it, but you probably should. 

Terrelle Pryor — @TerrellePryor (171K followers) — Nothing flashy about Pryor on Twitter, which is basically the exact opposite of his on-field work. But he's active, which is a major plus. He provides content, shares with fans and looks to interact. 

Nick Sundberg — @NickSundberg (17.1K followers) — Good dude who is good at Twitter. That sounds like a lame description, but it's written with the utmost sincerity. 

Zach Brown — @ZachBrown_55 (17.6K followers) — The new linebacker doesn't #StickToSports but he also does enjoy tweeting about sports. He's got versatillity, both on and off the field. 

Nico Marley — @Nico2Marley (6.3K followers) — Hey did you know Nico Marley is related to Bob Marley? 

Montae Nicholson — @MontaeNicholson (2,100 followers) — Here's an under-the-radar follow for Redskins fans. Nicolson doesn't tweet a lot, but he does keep his RT hand strong on viral videos, reaction GIFs and this video about a BOUNCY HOUSE!

 

How to follow the rest of the Redskins on Twitter:
Jonathan Allen - @jonallen95
Ryan Anderson - @Anderson_365
Chris Carter - @ccarter43
Tyler Catalina - @Tycat72
Robert Davis - @Robert_D13
Josh Doctson - @JDoc_son
Josh Evans - @JAY_E_9
Deshazor Everett - @DEverett22
Kendall Fuller - @KeFu11er
Kedric Golston - @Golston64
DeAngelo Hall - @DeAngeloHall23
Maurice Harris - @Maurice3Harris
Matt Hazel - @MattHazel_
Josh Holsey - @HeyItsJholsey
Tevin Homer - @tevinhomer3
Dustin Hopkins - @Dahop5
Matt Ionnaidis - @MattIoannidis
Levern Jacobs - @LevernJacobs
Matt Jones - @mattjonesrb
Rob Kelley - @Fatrob32
Ryan Kerrigan - @RyanKerrigan91
Arie Kouandjio - @AKouandjio74
Anthony Lanier - @Tspoon90
Shaun Lauvao - @Uce_Lauvao
Spencer Long - @slong_61
Terrell McClain - @McclainTerrell
Colt McCoy - @ColtMcCoy
Stacy McGee - @BigBuckMcGee92
Fabian Moreau - @fabianmoreau10
Trent Murphy - @TMurphy_93
Vinston Painter - @big_paint
Zach Pascal - @ZachPascal6
Semaje Perine - @samajp32
Ondre Pipkins - @PeeWeePipkins 
Brian Quick - @Bquick_SC
Jordan Reed - @Real_JordanReed
Brandon Scherff - @bscherff68
Preston Smith - @PrestonSmith94
Martrell Spaight - @spaight1
Jeremy Sprinkle - @sprinkle_memane
Nate Sudfeld - @NateSudfeld
Chris Thompson - @ChrisThompson_4
Ron Thompson Jr. - @RonCuse13
Lynden Trail - @LyndenTrail7
Trent Williams - @TrentW71