We’re getting to the point in the NFL season when rookies are playing games beyond what they would play during a college season, which can lead to concerns about diminished returns as players hit the so-called rookie wall.
One player who could be the subject of such concern is Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. He’s run the ball more than anyone else in the league and is on pace for 353 carries, which would be the second-most for any running back in a season since the start of the 2010 campaign.
Elliott said earlier this month that he isn’t worried about the cumulative effect of his workload and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has the same opinion.
“Not at all. The more we can give Ezekiel the ball the better,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan, via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News.
Related players: Alfred Morris
As the story said, that’s not a surprising statement from Jones as DeMarco Murray posted the most carries since the start of 2010 when he ran 392 times during the 2014 season and Elliott’s play has been essential to Dallas’ success this season. The Cowboys let Murray walk away as a free agent that offseason, something that obviously won’t happen with Elliott, and they have Alfred Morris on hand to take work in the backfield, although neither of those things appears to be impacting their plans in the backfield.
Saturday, August 20, 2016, 1:08pm
Dallas RB Alfred Morris is competing with Darren McFadden, who has missed the first two preseason games as he recovers from a broken elbow, and rookie Darius Jackson for the backup job behind first-round pick Ezekiel Elliott.
“He was more of a first- and second-down back in Washington,” coach Jason Garrett said, “so we’re giving him an opportunity to do some other things here. He’s a good football player and a pro. He’s working hard and learning every day.”
The story said the he’s running well enough to get it, but the Cowboys want him to be a better receiver and blocker. He caught a screen pass for a short gain and dropped another pass in the flat and pass catching was never something he excelled at with the Skins. He’s worked hard to improve as a blocker, the story said.
Ezekiel Elliott got two reps, so the lion’s share of the first-team work went to Alfred Morris – who was outstanding. It’s always hard to gauge running backs in training camp, because tackling is not allowed. But Morris seemed to break through to the second and even the third level before he was even touched on most of his runs.
When Alfred Morris signed with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, the Redskins made very clear they were comfortable with Matt Jones as their starting running back. A few days into training camp, it's obvious the organization is committed to Jones. Watch the running back group in drills, and Jones consistently takes the first rep. Coaches are in Jones' ear constantly, talking body lean and ball location and working hard to get the second-year man ready.
This really isn't a shock, but we've had some posts that the Skins may still have to throw the ball given the talent they have at WR and how the team did struggle to run the ball last season. Still, Jones is one of those RBs to nab later in drafts if you're using the Zero-Rb strategy just because his workload looks pretty safe without much of a backup behind him. Chris Thompson is next up but is more of a change of pace back and is great out of the backfield. Behind Thompson there isn't much of a proven commodity however.
There may be no Redskin who is under more pressure this year than second-year running back Matt Jones.
Last year, he shared carries with Alfred Morris and averaged just 3.4 yards per carry, the lowest average of any back who had enough attempts to qualify.
This year Morris is gone and the team is counting on Jones to carry the load. Morris rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons with the Redskins.
Rich Tandler thinks Jones will hit the mark, adding that it only takes about 62 yards a game to accomplish. Tarik El-Bashir, meanwhile, doesn't believe Jones will hit the mark, noting the weapons the team has in the passing game may indicate the Skins throws more. Our opinion is Jones falls just short with 949 rushing yards. Jones is ranked 23rd on our RB list with an ADP of the fifth round. You may not think Jones is worth the value there when you see Frank Gore, who we project to have similar rushing stats but be a bigger factor in the passing game, is ranked 24th and can be had a couple of rounds later in the seventh round, according to ADPs.
David Helman of DallasCowboys.com:
I don’t think it’s even a question that Ezekiel Elliott will be first string, and I’d say that even if Darren McFadden was 100 percent healthy. To your second point, I don’t think “concerned” is the word I’d use, but it’s definitely something I’d be mindful of. DeMarco Murray got 83 percent of the carries for this team in 2014, and he finished with more than 400 total touches. That’s a tad much for anyone, let alone a rookie. Fortunately, the Cowboys have vastly superior depth at the position this year. I think Zeke will finish with roughly 280-300 carries, which would put him right around 18-20 per game. That should leave plenty of carries for Alfred Morris and McFadden to get involved.
It's doubtful that the Cowboys drafted Elliott #4 overall to let him sit behind McFadden and/or Morris as a rookie. As long as he doesn't fall on his face, he should be the workhorse, with McFadden and Morris sprinkling in as change-of-pace backs. McFadden’s offseason injury only serves to help Elliott’s chances of RB1 touches.
Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott figures to have a prominent role right away, but he’s also entering a veteran running back room that includes free-agent signing Alfred Morris and returning starter Darren McFadden. If he’s going to be a featured back as a rookie, “Zeke has to earn it,” running backs coach Gary Brown said.
In other words, expect a healthy competition.
“I think that’s the best thing for our team and for those guys going forward,” Brown said.
That’s just fine with Elliott, who says competition “keeps you on your toes and make sure you’re getting that work done.”
Besides the quarterback, the player on offense under the most pressure to perform this year will be Matt Jones. The team let Alfred Morris walk in free agency and they waited until the seventh round to draft his replacement. And at this point the often injured, lightly used Keith Marshall isn’t even a sure bet to make the team. Jones will need to stay healthy while averaging 15-20 carries per game, add about a yard to the 3.4 per carry average he posted last year, and make fumbles very rare occurrences.
Jones had a few moments as a rookie, but they were mostly in the passing game, where he averaged 16.0 yards per catch on 19 receptions. As a runner, he averaged 3.4 YPC on 144 totes. It appears that he'll be the primary running back, though Chris Thompson led the Washington running backs with 35 receptions last season and may form a committee by taking over most of the third-down work.
Morris, 27, rushed for a franchise-record 1,613 yards as the Redskins captured the NFC East title in 2012. He benefited from the zone read option, but also excelled out of any look in the Redskins' outside zone system.
This past season, Morris finished with 806 yards overall and one touchdown. He averaged career lows in yards per carry (3.7) and yards after contact (1.45).
On the outs in Washington, Morris's career may be on the upswing as he lands with a team who not only wants him, but also has one of the best offensive lines in football. His arrival puts a big dent in Darren McFadden's upside as the duo will probably form a timeshare as long as both players stay productive. Morris may hold more value in standard formats while McFadden will compete with Lance Dunbar to serve as the team's primary back on passing downs.
Friday, January 8, 2016, 6:38pm
Redskins RB Matt Jones (hip, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 18. Jones has a chance to play but it’s no sure thing. HC Jay Gruden said he’s “not very encouraged” by his status. Alfred Morris would be a Sneaky Start if Jones can’t play.
Thursday, January 7, 2016, 6:15pm
Wednesday, January 6, 2016, 6:16pm
Friday, January 1, 2016, 6:26pm
Redskins RB Matt Jones (hip, doubtful) missed practice again Friday and is doubtful for Week 17. Jones suffered a setback this week, so Alfred Morris figures to get most of the carries unless the team decides to rest him as well.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 6:13pm
Redskins RB Matt Jones (hip) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Washington is locked into its playoff position, so Jones may not play in Week 17. Alfred Morris figures to get most of the carries unless the team decides to rest him as well.
Friday, December 25, 2015, 10:17pm
Redskins RB Matt Jones (hip, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 16. He and Alfred Morris have a nice matchup against the Eagles. If Jones is out, Morris will become a Sneaky Start.
- Page 1