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Alfred Morris Set To Face Off Against Redskins In Feature Role


The former Redskins running back will be filling in for a suspended Ezekiel Elliot in his largest role since joining the Cowboys.

Since joining the Cowboys in 2016, running back Alfred Morris has spent much of his time as a backup. Heading into Thursday's matchup, Morris will take on a larger role against the team that drafted him.

Morris came to the Washington Redskins after being picked in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the same year Washington selected quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III. He went on to post 1,000-yard seasons for the next three years and scored a career-high 13 touchdowns during his rookie campaign.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, who spent two years coaching with Morris on the roster, said he still sees the talents that were present during Morris's time in Washington.

"I think Alfred looks very similar to when he left here. You know, he's got good vision. He's running very hard and he always figures out a way to move the chains and make those positive yards," Gruden said. "He does a nice job. Alfred is Alfred, just steady eddie, solid as can be."

After leaving the Redskins following the 2015 season, Morris signed a reported two-year contract with the Cowboys, backing up first-round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott. As expected, Morris received far fewer carries in 2016, recording 243 yards and two touchdowns that year.

Heading into 2017, it looked like the Cowboys could replicate their formula with Elliott receiving most of the work and Morris and running back Darren McFadden providing relief. However, Elliott was eventually forced to serve a six-game suspension from the NFL, resulting in Morris becoming the Cowboys' No. 1 back.

The Cowboys then waived McFadden after Week 12 before he announced his retirement. Rod Smith, who saw increased production and even scored a touchdown against the Chargers in Elliott's absence, will be featured alongside Morris.  

Many Redskins' defenders, who faced Elliott earlier this season in Washington's 33-19 loss to Dallas, said the Cowboys' offense just isn't the same without Elliott in the backfield, despite Morris's contributions.

"Morris has done a great job of trying to pick up where he left off, but Zeke is a different animal," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said. "They've been struggling a little bit, but we can't go off what they've done in the past."

Since taking over for Elliott in Week 10, Morris has recorded 180 rushing yards in three games. In that same period, the tailback had just one reception for 13 yards.

Morris' numbers may not be elite, but a 91-yard game against Philadelphia can hardly be considered below average. What has hurt the Cowboys the most in Elliott's absence has been the increased pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott. Since Elliott's suspension, the second-year signal caller has yet to throw a touchdown pass or break the 200-yard mark in a game. His 74-completion percentage against the Chargers offered a bright spot for the Cowboys' offense, but his five interceptions in the last two games have kept the team from staying competitive without their star playmaker.

Despite the decreased offensive production by Dallas, Gruden says he doesn't expect the Cowboys to make changes to their game plan on Thursday.

"I think they are still going to try to run it behind that big offensive line and try to control the clock, mix in the play-action and the bootlegs – things that have made them successful in the past," Gruden said. "That's what their formula has been for winning. I don't think they change."

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