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Key matchup: Redskins RB Alfred Morris vs. Vikings' run defense

Pro Football Weekly
Morris, Brown, Walsh named NFC Players of the Week
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Morris, Brown, Walsh named NFC Players of the Week

Redskins RB Alfred Morris vs. Vikings' run defense

If there’s a knock or two on impressive rookie RB Alfred Morris, it’s that he’s not terribly fast and that he could stand to be a little more consistent. Observers have noted that he has had a slew of one- and two-yard (and even negative) runs followed by a burst for a long gain. The long gainers are good, but he could stand to throw in a few more medium gains for consistency’s sake.

However, his lack of speed hasn’t been a huge problem. He’s decisive and assertive, often running through the first tackle attempt and gaining what’s blocked for him — and often a little bit more. And even so, Morris has shown the requisite patience needed for the zone series, waiting for blocks to develop and then hitting the hole hard.

His success clearly is tied to the presence of Robert Griffin III, who has attracted the main attention of opposing defenses both as a runner and passer. That generally has kept safeties pinned to the edges and not stuffed up into the tackle box on every play, which has been good news for Morris. It’s not stunning that after Griffin was hurt against the Falcons, Morris was held to six rushing yards on three carries.

It will be interesting to see how the Vikings employ S Harrison Smith in this game given the presence of Morris and Griffin. Smith was tossed from last week’s game but has played a number of roles this season and could find himself either spying on Griffin or shadowing Morris in certain circumstances.

Otherwise, the Vikings will play it straight for the most part, and they have shown they can stop the run in their nickel defense. The line has improved all around by a good measure; it was a big sack unit a year ago but has been far more well-rounded this season. DT Kevin Williams is more effective with reduced snaps and was a key figure vs. the run against the Titans (RB Chris Johnson gained a mere 24 yards on 15 carries).

MLB Jasper Brinkley and SLB Chad Greenway are also off to terrific starts, and with the return of WLB Erin Henderson, the Vikings’ LB corp is in good shape again.

Shutting down Griffin is the first key, but Morris has made the Redskins’ offense so effective as well with his power and hard running. The Vikings can’t let him break any long runs. If they hold him to fewer than 75 yards — no team yet has — then they could have an edge on Sunday.

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