Can Alfred Morris run away from Matt Jones?

Alfred Morris starts as the clear starter, but will he finish the season in that role? Breaking Burgundy's Chris Russell takes a closer look at the present - and future - of the Redskins' backfield.

Will Alfred Morris be the Redskins starting running back in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium to close out the regular season?

The answer is this and it is the absolute truth: It depends on what happens in the 15 games before that.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen, but let's examine why that is even a fair question. Morris enters his fourth NFL season, which could be his last in a Redskins uniform. He's an unrestricted free agent after this year.

Matt Jones was drafted out of Florida in the latter part of the third round in the 2015 draft, higher than just about everybody expected.

This is why Jones' addition could spell the end of Morris' tenure in Washington.

Before we get there, a lot has to be proven on the field.

Jones, a tall, thick and physical back doesn't have tremendous speed, but if he can stay healthy, he is the type of back that Scot McCloughan teams have employed with great success. Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore both had tremendous success in Seattle and San Francisco respectively. They did that behind an offensive line that was stocked by McCloughan in the draft and free agency when the new Redskins general manager worked at the top of those two organizations.

As history would suggest, McCloughan made offensive line a top priority in his first draft with the Redskins. Washington selected Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick and Arie Kouandjio out of Alabama with one of two fourth-round selections.

The Redskins took an extra step before selecting Jones, Scherff and Kouandjio to make it obvious what their plan was by hiring one of the preeminent offensive line coaches in the game. Bill Callahan left Dallas for Washington after the Cowboys dominated defenses on the ground on their way to the NFC East title last season.

The point is this. The Redskins will run the ball and then they will run the ball some more. If that isn't enough, they'll run it a little more. I call it "mash-and-maul" and that is what I KNOW the Redskins will try to do this year.

If this doesn't happen, something has gone terribly wrong.

This brings us back to Jones and Morris. Morris will start and be the primary back. He says he will be better in the power-heavy scheme the Redskins will deploy. The Redskins will still run plenty of outside zone looks but this will be a between the tackles, physical attack.

Morris has seen his average per carry numbers go from 4.8 to 4.6 and down to 4.1 per attempt in 2014. Even if he is better per attempt than last year, his overall numbers can be worse.

Why? Jones will have a role that doesn't make him a backup. Jones will essentially be a co-starter in my eyes as long as he continues to show the progress he did in the off-season program. Entering training camp, Jones appears to be a better receiver and the belief is he will be better in pass protection. If the rookie can prove to be effective in short yardage situations, he will get more attempts inside the red zone and certainly around the goal line.

I've seen Jones used on a lot of third-down situations because of the skill set that I just described. The Redskins were awful on the money down last year. With Roy Helu gone to Oakland, Washington was clearly looking for somebody who could not only catch the ball, but also be an effective pass blocker and short yardage bruiser.

Morris continues to work hard and for the most part does everything that you would possibly ask for. What he doesn't do is anything truly dynamic. He plays at a position that rarely gets rewarded in the NFL, especially when he doesn't have a unique skill set.

One other major element to watch that could favor Jones is Morris' occasional struggles with ball security. The numbers last year do not reveal the level of concern that others and obviously, I have.

I believe Morris was tentative in 2014 because he was thinking too much about ball security. That's great, but you have to block it out.

By the time the Redskins get to Dallas to end the regular season, considering everything that could and might happen, it is absolutely conceivable that they will want to see exactly what they have in Jones moving forward.

And what they could be moving on from in Morris.


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