For Redskins, it's the Year of the Rookie

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

With the way Griffin, Morris feed off each other, it's nearly impossible for defenses to stop them both

ASHBURN -- It was the quarterback at first. That's why Alfred Morris gained so many yards. Defenses paid attention to Robert Griffin III, allowing Morris to run past them, breaking an arm tackle attempt here, wiggling past a defender there.

And then it was about the running back. Defenses started to pay closer attention to him, and when Griffin faked a handoff to him, they were fooled. That left gaping holes over the middle for Griffin to find open receivers.

Now it's about both.

"We're trying to isolate down to one guy and trying to put a guy in a position on defense and make him decide what to do -- try to put two guys on one guy," Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "He can't be right. He picks one guy, and then the other guy is open."

But that's the problem that many defenses face when they play the Redskins. Their two standout rookies have combined to give the Redskins the NFL's best rushing attack and an offense that averaged a league-best 6.2 yards per play. Griffin receives -- and deserves -- a lot of the credit. He has completed 65.6 percent of his passes and thrown for 20 touchdowns. Griffin also rushed for 815 yards.

Morris, though, set a franchise single-season rushing record with 1,613 yards, averaging 4.8 per carry.

"If you run that option but one guy carrying the ball is no good, the defense will say give it to him all day long because it won't hurt," said one NFL defensive coach who faced the Redskins this season. "That is part of the thing that helps Robert."

During the Redskins-Cowboys game, Griffin wore a microphone for the NFL Network; at one point he calls Morris his "Terrell Davis." Davis, of course, paired with John Elway to deliver two Super Bowl trophies to Denver under current Redskins coach Mike Shanahan.

Griffin said he noticed teams start to key on Morris more during the middle of their seven-game winning streak. Morris averaged 4.1 yards or fewer three times during those seven games but managed at least 76 yards in each game.

"The past couple games, whether teams have tried to take me away or take him away, they switch it up a bunch," Griffin said. "Basically, every other series they're deciding who they're going to take away that series."

No game provided a better example than Sunday's win over Dallas. On a second-quarter touchdown drive, Morris carried on consecutive plays for a combined 25 yards; Dallas played both safeties deep. On the next play, Griffin faked a handoff to Morris, who by now had caught the attention of the defense. As outside linebacker Anthony Spencer crashed hard toward Morris, Griffin ran past him for 9 yards. In the third quarter, Dallas finally used a safety near the line after five Morris runs gained 44 yards. On the next play, Griffin connected with Pierre Garcon over the middle for 18 yards.

"With Robert back there and being a threat and then having a hard-nosed runner like myself, it causes problems," Morris said. "You never know who's going to have the ball. That's one of the biggest things about the scheme."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner