Redskins counting on rookie to add power to running game
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Alfred Morris has been one of the NFL's top running backs since Washington drafted him in the sixth round in 2012.
But at 5-foot-9 and 219 pounds, Morris doesn't overpower defenses the way that Hall of Famer John Riggins, Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and NFC rushing champion Stephen Davis did during most of the Redskins' best seasons in the 1980s and 1990s.
In hopes of complementing Morris with their first true big running back since Davis left after the 2002 season, the Redskins drafted Florida's 6-2, 226-pound Matt Jones in the third round this month.
''Alfred's a darn good halfback,'' Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Saturday on the second day of Washington's three-day rookie minicamp. ''In order to take carries off of him, you gotta show a lot.
''So far, Matt's taken the right steps to take a little bit of the load off of Alfred (who had 85 percent of the carries by Washington's running backs the past three seasons). If you want to commit to running the football, you gotta have a couple guys that can tote it.''
By hiring offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who helped make Dallas the NFL's top rushing offense in 2014, and using three of their first five draft choices on Jones, tackle Brandon Scherff, and guard Arie Kouandjio, new Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan has shown how committed the Redskins are to a power running game.
McCloughan called Jones ''a physical player and as tough as crud.'' And yet, Gruden raved about the rest of the rookie's game.
''You think of him as a big, power-type back, but Matt's done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive, making moves on the second level, in the passing game, running some option routes on linebackers,'' Gruden said. ''He's got natural hands.''
Jones didn't get much of a chance to display those at Florida, where he caught just 19 passes in three seasons. And although the Gators were just 22-15 during his career, he didn't become the feature back until 2014 when he averaged 4.9 yards on 166 carries.
''My college career wasn't what I wanted it to be (because) of the offense I was in. I love (Washington's) offense. I love getting downhill. I think that's what they drafted me for. I can add more size, more catching out of the backfield, more blocking. I feel like I can do it all and complement Alfred Morris at the same time. Alfred will be the starter, but I will compete with anybody.''
Notes: Former Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, an undrafted free agent, left Gruden a voice mail on the eve of minicamp telling the coach that he had decided not to pursue a pro career. ... Another former college quarterback, Alabama's Blake Sims, is in camp but as a running back prospect. . Receiver Evan Spencer, a sixth-round selection, didn't work on Saturday because of an ailing hamstring.
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