There were a number of good options from week one of the preseason to take a look at new players fitting in, but I figured I'd go with running back Alfred Morris. Morris was the Redskins 6th round selection this past April out of Florida Atlantic. Morris lacks top end speed, but has solid cutting ability and the coaching staff was able to work with him during the week of the Senior Bowl.
Morris entered training camp in a battle to be the fourth running back on the Redskins depth chart, and hopefully showcase himself enough to force the team to keep four running backs this year. Morris has answered the call, and has flashed some ability throughout training camp and in the Redskins first preseason game. Combine that with injuries bothering both Tim HIghtower and Roy Helu, and Morris's chances have vastly increased.
Breaking Down his first Game:
Morris paced the Redskins running backs with 15 carries and 54 yards (3.6 ypc). Though the numbers aren't earth shattering there were a lot of positives from Morris's performance.
-Of his 15 runs, just one went for negative yardage
-Of his 14 remaining runs seven went for 4 or more yards, including three for 6.
-Morris displayed solid vision and was able to push forward for an extra yard or two on multiple runs as he was being brought down.
-Overall he showed a good power/balance combo, that has been a key trait for zone blocking runners.
-It should also be noted that while facing back-ups, Morris was relying on the same quality of players to block for him.
Now not everything was a positive for Morris as in addition to the negative run, he was never really able to break a run off into the open field. Granted with his lack of speed or acceleration, you aren't expecting 40 or 50 yard runs, but you would like to see at least a couple 10-15 yarders. It's not a major negative just yet, but it does bear watching to see if he can get those extra yards.
Morris is off to a good start, and he'll be a back that will be interesting to watch these final three preseason games. Given that two backs are currently banged up, I'd expect Morris to have plenty of chances to prove himself. Not only will his carries continue to rise, but he should see more runs versus 1st and 2nd team defenses these next two weeks, which will be a pretty good test.
If he continues to play well, I would expect him to start the season on the 53 man roster, given those injury concerns to Tim Hightower and Roy Helu. I think the Redskins will try to find a way to keep four running backs this year, which looks to be a smart idea, given the injury rate at the position. Overall I still think Coach Shanahan will favor Evan Royster, Hightower and Helu, and my guess is Morris will spend most weeks on the inactive list. Even still it is a notable achievement for a 6th rounder in a crowded position to earn a 53 man roster spot.