After the Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth overall pick, Alfred Morris speculated that one of the team’s veteran backs likely wouldn’t be on the roster for the start of the season. He probably was right.
Unfortunately, Darren McFadden fractured his right elbow. Fortunately, the Cowboys signed Morris in March.
“Alfred’s a good football player,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We saw that on the other side when we tried to tackle him for his first four years in the league. His production with the Redskins speaks for itself, and you see him the practice environments and understand why he’s been so productive in this league. He’s a natural runner, very good feel for the zone-run game. He’s a professional. He comes to work every day. He wants to learn; he wants to get better. It’s been a really positive thing for our running back room and our football team.”
McFadden will miss two months after undergoing surgery Tuesday, giving Morris more reps behind Elliott. Morris, though, refuses to look at it as a positive for him.
“You never want anybody to get hurt,” Morris said. “But I never even thought about it like that, as an opportunity. Honestly, I was just more concerned with him and his well being, not like, ‘Oh, I get an extra opportunity.’ I feel like they did a good job of splitting up our reps anyway. Everybody gets an honest opportunity to showcase what they can do. Really, with him gone, it doesn’t change much honestly. The only thing it does is it does change that we don’t have our leader in the room. We don’t have the savvy vet who’s been doing it for quite some time, since I was still in college and he was playing. We do lose that factor of it. But overall, they always do a good job of splitting up reps between all the backs. It doesn’t open up more of an opportunity for me.”
Morris rushed for 3,962 yards and scored 28 touchdowns on 876 carries his first three seasons, beginning his career with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Though he again started all 16 games in 2015, Morris split snaps with Matt Jones and Chris Thompson and fell 249 yards short of 1,000.
Morris found the free agent market lacking and signed an incentive-laden, two-year contract with the Cowboys worth up to $5.5 million.
“To us, he is not overlooked,” running backs coach Gary Brown said. “He looks very, very good. The only thing he is struggling with right now is the terminology. When he gets the ball in his hands, and he is doing things on the grass, he is really good.”
Morris still is learning the playbook, with the protections the most challenging part.
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “I feel like they jammed three or four different playbooks together. I’m starting to get it, and get to the point that I can play a little more without thinking, so you can play more comfortable; you play a little faster. But I’ve still got a lot to learn. There’s a lot thrown at you at once. So I’ve got to do my due diligence and study at home and study between meetings and things like that. So it’s been helping me, but I’ve still got a ways to go.”