Fantasy
Morris stars for surging 'Skins
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Washington Redskins may have the best rookie in football.

And no, I'm not talking about that guy from the Subway commercials.

Alfred Morris may not have a Heisman Trophy but he does have 376 rushing yards in four games this season. That's the fifth-highest total in the NFL and 124 yards more than any other rookie in the league. Ironically, the rookie with the second-most rushing yards is Robert Griffin III (you know, the Subway dude I was talking about earlier).

Morris is also 154 yards ahead of Trent Richardson, the first running back selected in this year's NFL draft. Speaking of the draft, Morris wasn't taken until the sixth round when the Redskins finally grabbed him at pick No. 173. That means that 10 running backs were drafted ahead of Morris.

The 5-foot-10, 218-pound Morris enjoyed the most prolific career of any running back in school history during his four seasons at Florida Atlantic University. Yet as draft day approached, scouts seemed hesitant to endorse Morris as "NFL-ready." SidelineScouting.com commented on Morris' "lack of physical gifts" and said that he'd be "nothing more than a situational back-up running back in the NFL."

Pro Football Weekly saw him as having "below-average speed for a running back" and called Morris out for his "minimal receiving production." The same scouts noted that "ball security has been an issue" for Morris, alluding to his 16 career fumbles at Florida Atlantic.

Scouts also pointed out that Morris crumbled against tough competition, including a sloppy 14-carry, 16-yard effort against the University of Florida in 2011 and later a disappointing 10-carry, 21-yard performance in a blowout loss to Michigan State.

But while scouts were looking for a player who looked great on paper, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins were looking for a football player. They liked Morris' toughness and his will to win, even if he didn't do a whole lot of it in college (Florida Atlantic went 1-11 during his senior year).

So far, the hard-nosed 23-year-old has been a perfect fit for Shanahan's run- heavy style of offense. Morris has rushed for at least 78 yards in each of Washington's four games this season, including a career-best 113 yards in last week's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Morris has a league-best four touchdowns this season. Two of those came in a dramatic Week 1 win over the New Orleans Saints, Morris' first game in the NFL. Pretty good for a guy who entered training camp as the Redskins' third- string running back.

While Morris has been racking up the yards, he's also been putting to rest many of the concerns that kept teams from picking him early in this year's draft.

Scouts worried that Morris would be turnover-prone at the next level but so far, he's yet to fumble on any of his 82 touches this year.

Sideline Scouting criticized Morris before the draft for not being "a home run threat." Morris has disproved that claim with several long runs this season, most recently a 39-yard score Sunday versus the Buccaneers. Only Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and C.J. Spiller have collected more runs of 20-plus yards than Morris has through the first four weeks of 2012.

Particularly impressive has been Morris' resiliency. Young players have a tendency to get overwhelmed in the moment or frustrated when something doesn't go their way. Cam Newton, a player who has rarely encountered failure during his career, has been known to put a towel over his head when he gets discouraged.

On the other hand, you'll never see Morris mope around after a poor play. Take last week's game against the Buccaneers for example. After getting stuffed for no gain and then a three-yard loss on the opening series, Morris had every right to be upset with himself.

But instead of dwelling on the results of the past drive, he popped off for a 17-yard gain two plays into Washington's next possession before leading the team downfield for its first touchdown of the game. Morris went on to play a pivotal role in each of the Redskins' next five drives, leaving the field with 69 first-half rushing yards.

Every sport is full of ups and downs, which is why you hear people say that the best athletes have a short memory. Usually it takes years to develop that trait, but for Morris, it seems to come much more easily.

Over the years, we've seen plenty of rookies get off to hot starts and fade later on, but I don't think Morris will be one of them. Even if his yards-per- carry average slips into the low fours, the shear volume of carries Morris will receive should push him over the 1,000-yard hump.

In the past, Coach Shanahan has been known to utilize a running-back-by- committee system, but with Roy Helu out for the year, Morris has received an average of 20 1/2 touches per game for the 2-2 Redskins. That puts Morris on pace to carry the ball 328 times this season, more than double the amount of times Helu touched the ball when he was Washington's No. 1 back during the 2011 campaign.

Just like the 1991 Mazda sedan he still drives, Morris isn't the shiniest car in the lot, but he's plenty reliable. With two of the Redskins' next five games coming against teams ranked in the bottom ten in rushing yards allowed, I wouldn't expect Morris to run out of gas anytime soon.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.