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Fumble Woes Are A Correctable Problem


Rookie running back Alfred Morris has been a sensation this year, rising from the sixth round of April's NFL Draft to become the greatest rookie back in franchise history.

Already this year, Morris has tallied six 100-yard rushing performances, including a current three-game streak. 

He has the Redskins' first 1,000-yard season from a back since Clinton Portis in 2008, and broke the rookie rushing mark set by Reggie Brooks in 1993.

There is plenty for Morris and the coaching staff to be proud of with his development.  But like most rookies, there is still work to be done.

Morris carried the ball 132 times before fumbling for the first time against the New York Giants in Week 7.  Since then, he has fumbled another three times in 121 carries, causing concern that he may have hit the proverbial "rookie wall."

Count head coach Mike Shanahan among those that scoff at this theory.

"To be honest with you, fumbles are going to occur," he told the media on Monday.  "He's a guy you really trust because it means a lot to him. If you do get the ball, it's usually a pretty good hit or three or four guys standing a guy up and doing a great job pulling the ball out."

While many running backs let fumbles change their mindset in a game, Morris has experienced tremendous success in games where he fumbled.

Morris has never fumbled more than once in a game, making adjustments to his grip to increase security.  In three of the four games that he fumbled, he went on to rush for over 100 yards in the game.

Last Sunday against the Ravens, Morris fumbled the ball at the Washington 23-yard line early in the second quarter. After watching the Ravens convert the turnover for a touchdown, Morris rushed another 13 times for 46 yards.

The confidence of the coaching staff gives Morris opportunities to atone for his mistakes.  But it is Morris's mindset that allows him to adjust and prosper.

"I learned a lesson back in college, where my fullback coach said, 'You've got to have a short-term memory to play this game,'" Morris said. "We all make mistakes and, yeah, it's unfortunate and they even got points off it. It's terrible. But at the same time there's a lot more game to be played.

"That happened early on in the game and if I hung my head I wouldn't be able to go out there and help my team out."

With that being said, Morris expects better of himself and understands that he needs to clean up his act if the Redskins hope to continue their path to the playoffs.

"That's just unacceptable. I hold myself at a higher standard," Morris said. "I definitely don't use it for fuel. I'm just a hard runner. That's what I am. I'm a workhorse."

Shanahan said on Monday that the irregular scheduling of the last three weeks has made padded, physical practices more difficult to execute. 

This, in turn, makes it more difficult to work on ball security drills with the running backs--something Shanahan looks to get back to this week.

"You have to practice everyday with the defense trying to strip the ball from you," Shanahan said.  "We haven't had much contact with two short weeks. We'll get back to trying to strip the ball, putting [Morris] in situations where he can get those good habits back. 

"I have a lot of confidence in him."

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