For the first time since his four-year tenure with the Redskins ended over the winter, Cowboys running back Alfred Morris will face his former team this Sunday.
Morris spoke Wednesday about his final season in Washington, telling reporters (including John Keim of ESPN.com), “By the end of the year, I figured my time there was gone. You’re not the coach’s guy, you’re not the GM’s guy, they draft a young guy. It’s a business, so I expected that. They just had a different plan and I wasn’t a part of it and that was OK.”
When the Redskins selected Morris in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Mike Shanahan was at the helm as their head coach. Morris had a tremendous rookie year under Shanahan, rushing 335 times for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, and he was also excellent in his second season (276 attempts, 1,275 yards, seven scores). The Redskins then ousted Shanahan in favor of Jay Gruden, and Morris’ numbers began falling off considerably. The ex-Florida Atlantic Owl still racked up 1,000-plus yards and eight scores in 2014, but his attempts (265) and yards-per-carry average (4.1) hit career lows. Those numbers further declined last year for Morris, who failed to approach 1,000 yards (751), put up just 3.7 yards per tote and scored a meager one touchdown.
Fresh off his career-worst showing, Morris hit the open market. Once there, he only drew interest from the Broncos, Dolphins and Cowboys, leading to disdain for a process that he called “insulting.”
“I didn’t like it one bit. I don’t want to do it again,” he said.
On settling for a two-year, $5.5MM deal with the Redskins’ NFC East rivals, the Cowboys, he stated, “Eventually Dallas came knocking. I did a visit and it just seemed like a good fit. So I said, ‘Why not?’ It’s a rival team, but I didn’t even think about that. I was a kid trying to keep his dream alive and it just happened to fall to the rival team.”
Morris’ chances to make an impact with the Cowboys seemingly took a hit when they selected former Ohio State star rusher Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick in April’s draft. After all, Dallas already had Darren McFadden, who impressed last year, and Lance Dunbar on its depth chart. However, McFadden has since gone on the shelf with an elbow injury that will cost him several weeks of the season, thus opening the door again for Morris.
As expected, Elliott was the Cowboys’ bell cow in their season-opening loss to the Giants, but Morris was effective in a secondary role (seven carries, 35 yards). The Redskins, meanwhile, failed to establish a running game with second-year back Matt Jones in a 38-16 loss to Pittsburgh and yielded 143 yards to the Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams. If Washington’s Week 1 performance is any indication, Elliott and Morris should have productive showings Sunday.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.