Why Alfred Morris Is The Cowboys On-Paper First-Team RB

The Cowboys just signed their on-paper 2016 starting running back in Alfred Morris. An inside look at that envisioned ‘paper’:

Alfred Morris is a former sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic who exploded onto the Washington scene four years ago in coordination with fellow rookie Robert Griffin III and in coordination with the zone-blocking scheme the Redskins ran at the time.

In that first season, he was good for 1600 yards and 13 touchdowns. But since, the Redskins have changed coaches, changed QBs and changed schemes … and now Morris is a Dallas Cowboy thanks to a new two-year, team-friendly deal agreed to on Tuesday.

And the two-time Pro Bowler comes to Dallas as a leading candidate to be the starter. Not because he says so, because all signees have bright-light dreams about their roles, but rather because the Dallas scheme says so.

Everyone in Washington raves about the character of Morris, so if he ends up not beating out Darren McFadden for first-team snaps, or if Dallas opts to select a running back in the April NFL Draft who beats him out, Morris will almost certainly be a supportive teammate (as the classy McFadden is). Indeed, Morris handled his situation well in Washington last year when, as you see above, he was reduced to being part of a three-back RBBC. But on-paper, the idea on Morris inside of Valley Ranch — well, soon, inside of The Star — is that his age (27), fit with the zone-blocking scheme (something Dallas prefers but inched away from in 2015 when McFadden took over for Joe Randle) and running style (power with some wiggle) give him a leg up on the rest of the field.

Nothing is set in stone here. McFadden did nothing wrong in his 1,000-yard season of last year. Dallas doesn’t automatically skip over running backs in the draft now. (If you really believe in BPA/BAA, you still think about Ezekiel Elliott early in Round 1 and you certainly don't shy away from runners in later rounds.) Lance Dunbar may not be healthy enough to go this summer. But start with Morris’ durability;  His 4713 yards in the last four years is unmatched except for AD and he’s played in and started every single game of his career. This is a one-cut downhill guy, not unlikely DeMarco Murray, minus the credentials as a pass-catcher.

That is among the reasons the 5-10, 224-pound Morris, while qualifying as a good “get’’ for Dallas, is something less than idea. The age of 27 puts him on the precipice of decline. The lack of breakaway speed is a truth. The change of scenery isn’t always a positive.


But the Cowboys have spent this spring investigating upgrades from McFadden. They examined Lamar Miller and Matt Forte and they even engaged in trade talks regarding Murray. Even when there was no clear answer, there was a clear vision, and now it is realized: The Cowboys wanted a running back who is a better first-team fit than Darren McFadden ... and now, on-paper, they have it.

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