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Run Game Split Based On Running Backs' Strengths


Alfred Morris is still the Redskins' "No. 1 back" but head coach Jay Gruden said that the usage of all the team's running backs is based on each of their strengths in particular situations.

While it appears that rookie running back Matt Jones has surpassed Alfred Morris in the Washington Redskins' hierarchy, head coach Jay Gruden once again insisted on Tuesday that isn't the case.

"Moving forward, Alfred is still our No. 1 back and we'll go from there," Gruden said during the opening question of his conference call with local media.

Morris once again was used sparingly Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys, as he recorded just eight snaps with six carries, all coming in the first quarter.

This came just three weeks after Morris played just three snaps against the Carolina Panthers, although he was dealing with a rib injury at the time.

"I don't think it was his ribs, no," Gruden said of Morris' playing time against Dallas. "I don't think it had a lot to do with being effective, I just think it's the way the game played. Like I told you guys before, we don't really have a specific plan on how many carries we want each guy to get. We try to go with the flow of the game and go from there. It just so happened that Matt Jones had a couple good hits in the game and we chose to play Matt a little bit more than Alfred."

Although Jones has pieced together a solid first season with 400 rushing yards on 116 carries and 272 receiving yards on 16 receptions, Morris, who is in the final year of his rookie contract, is having the worst season statistically of his four-year career.

The two-time Pro Bowler has just 494 yards on 141 carries. His 3.5 yards per carry is the lowest of his career, and he has yet to score a touchdown.

"I think it's game-dependent, series-dependent, play-dependent," Gruden said of the running back rotation. "A lot of times there's certain runs that we feel like Alfred [Morris] has more success at than Matt [Jones] and there's certain runs we feel Matt is better at than Alfred. And some of the runs we had were of the outside variety, and maybe we want a little bit more speed in there and Matt was the choice or Chris Thompson. It's play-dependent, series-dependent and of course game-dependent, and [Monday] night, for whatever reason, Alfred didn't get as many touches as Matt. We started out with every intention of giving Matt or Alfred the ball. He [Morris] had six carries early, I believe, and we just didn't get back to him."

The running game as a whole needs to be better down the stretch, though.

In some games the Redskins have whipped up 100 yards with ease. Other weeks -- most notably on the road, where Washington is winless this year -- they're barely getting past 50 yards.

As the Redskins enter the stretch run in an NFC East race that is up for grabs for all four teams, Gruden said the team is looking to make some changes in their gameplan.

"We have to look at what we're doing," Gruden said. "But, it's going to be hard — as a play caller — to call run plays if you're averaging two yards a carry. Like you said, it hasn't been pretty for – what'd you say – seven out of our last eight, six out of our last seven? I think we're going to have to probably going to err on the side of throwing the ball. That means throwing quick game, maybe throwing more screens on early downs, trying to get positive down and distances — like you said — to throw it on first down, second and five. Maybe try to get in some pass situations and throw some draws in there. But we have to look at what we're doing, we have to execute better obviously, but we also have to look at when we're calling plays and how we're calling plays and put our guys in better positions to succeed and get the ball to our playmakers' hands and figure out who those guys are and get them the ball."




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