A thought to conclude Chicago week:
Sixth-round rookie running back Alfred Morris will play a considerable amount against the Bears on Saturday night, Mike Shanahan said, possibly behind the first-string offensive line. The coaching staff is familiar with Evan Royster’s ability, Shanahan said, so it makes sense to extensively evaluate Morris this week, with Roy Helu Jr. (left Achilles) and Tim Hightower (left knee) in need of snaps when (if) they return next Saturday against Indianapolis.
So let’s ponder Morris’ chances of making the final 53-man roster. It’s a worthwhile endeavor after his solid debut in last week’s preseason opener against Buffalo. Morris showed a good feel for the one-cut style Shanahan requires behind his zone run-blocking scheme. His feet were smooth – few wasted steps – and he consistently fell forward and fought for yards. He wasn’t tested in blitz pick-up, but that will come.
Consider the roster math: Hightower, Royster and Helu should make the team if healthy, and Shanahan in each of his two years in Washington has kept only three tailbacks on the final 53. That doesn’t necessarily leave Morris out, though.
Shanahan has kept two fullbacks each season, but this year he could keep just one, Darrel Young, and consider tight end Chris Cooley the backup. That would leave room for four tailbacks if Morris proves himself worthy of a spot. (It’s worth noting that the second fullback, Mike Sellers, was a core special teams player; Cooley does not play teams.)
Shanahan has kept eight offensive linemen in each of his two seasons, and that figures to be the fewest he could keep this year considering the injuries up front and considering rookie Adam Gettis hasn’t played any other position than right guard.
Assuming the Redskins keep eight offensive linemen, the musical roster spots shake down to keeping two of the following three possibilities: a fourth tailback (likely Morris), a sixth wide receiver or a fourth tight end (likely Logan Paulsen).
So Morris needs to prove to coaches that he adds more value than a sixth receiver or fourth tight end. Hightower’s and Helu’s injuries increase Morris’ value because he represents insurance if either of those guys can’t play.
Morris, obviously, could make Shanahan’s decision easy by continuing to play well. He averaged only 3.6 yards per carry on 15 attempts against Buffalo, but he was running behind the Redskins’ backups and some guys who won’t make the team. What he does with an opportunity to run behind the first-string line would go a long way toward determining his fate.