Alfred Morris: The Redskins' other impressive rookie

Redskins running back Alfred Morris is tackled after losing his helmet against the Bengals at FedEx...

Redskins running back Alfred Morris is tackled after losing his helmet against the Bengals at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Sept. 23, 2012. (JASON REED/Reuters)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:39 PM ET

He isn't the most celebrated rookie running back in the NFL.

He isn't the most celebrated rookie on his own team, the Washington Redskins. Not even in his own backfield as quarterback Robert Griffin III takes that cake.

But Alfred Morris was a surprise camp performer who became the Redskins' starting running back.

He has done nothing but impress through three weeks.

Morris, 23, is ninth in the NFL in rushing after racking up 78 yards against the New Orleans Saints, 89 against the Rams and 96 against the Bengals.

He has the classic build of a 21st-century NFL runner — five-foot-10, 218 pounds — and is averaging 4.3 yards per carry with three touchdowns. He has further endeared himself to head coach Mike Shanahan and his offensive staff by not fumbling the football as of yet.

Oh, and about his turtle-slow 4.67 time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in February? Doesn't matter, offensive co-ordinator Kyle Shanahan says.

"I think a lot of those fast guys, those combine-fast guys, you don't see as many long runs," Shanahan told the Washington Times. "Game speed is about carrying your pads. It's pressing blocks, putting your foot violently in the ground, and how much can you accelerate out of the cut.

"Alf is a guy, who, when he puts his foot down, he actually gains momentum from that. He can put his foot in the ground and explode out of it and actually be faster coming out of a cut than he was going into it ... Alf is very similar to Terrell Davis in that way."

Not bad for an unheralded sixth-round draft pick out of Florida Atlantic University.

THREE BIG MATCHUPS

REAL REFS vs. RUST

Isn't it great that the real refs are back? Woohoo! Now we can all go back to hating NFL game officials again, without reservation or remorse. Remember, these guys screw up a lot, too. And when the call goes against your team, well, it's a conspiracy, man. The real refs get paid exceptionally well. By 2019 they'll earn more than $200,000 on average apiece. But many of them haven't blown a whistle in earnest since last winter. Hold your breath.

DREW BREES vs. AARON RODGERS

Remember last year when Brees and the New Orleans Saints opened the NFL season against Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers? The offences scored on almost every possession. This season? The teams have one win combined and score about as often as Animal House's Flounder after a year's stay at the Playboy Mansion. Neither quarterback can scrounge much time to throw. Rodgers should pick the bad Saints defence apart.

DENNIS ALLEN vs. DENVER BRONCOS

After their upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Oakland Raiders have a bit of momentum heading into Denver where their new head coach, Allen, was defensive co-ordinator last season. Allen is a young, no-nonsense disciplinarian who turned around the Broncos defence last year. Can he corral Peyton Manning and the Broncos?

SUNDAY BRUNCH

How dangerous is the Atlanta Falcons' passing attack? Pretty dangerous.

Through Week 3, quarterback Matt Ryan was the highest rated passer in the NFL (114.0) and he was tied with Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick with the most touchdown passes (eight).

As well, the Falcons were the only team having two players with at least three touchdown receptions. That's exactly how many wide receiver Julio Jones and tight end Tony Gonzalez have for Atlanta.

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It could get mighty ugly in St. Louis on Sunday.

Only Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (16) has been sacked more than Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (12).

And the Seattle Seahawks, who are responsible for half of Rodgers' sacks, come to town.

"It was like a feeding frenzy there for a while," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said of Monday night's 14-12 win over the Packers. "We needed every single one of (the eight sacks) to stop them."

Er, Seattle probably won't need that many this week.

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Only five interior defensive linemen have three quarterback sacks: the Buffalo Bills' Kyle Williams, the Chicago Bears' Henry Melton, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Michael Bennett and Gerald McCoy and the Cincinnati Bengals' Geno Atkins.

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Tim Jennings of the Bears leads the league with four interceptions. New York Giants outside linebacker Michael Boley, Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud have three apiece.

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One of the most surprising stats through three weeks: New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley leads the league with 18 rushing first downs. He's also averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

THE BIG NUMBER

731

The number of points scored so far this year, the most in any three-week span in NFL history.

FOUR BIG GAMES ON SUNDAY

1. New York Giants (2-1) at Philadelphia Eagles (2-1)

These NFC East rivals entered the season with super ambitions. Both possess defensive lines that most NFL teams would die to have. Giants quarterback Eli Manning is playing as well as ever. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, meanwhile is as enigmatic as ever — meaning he still has itchy feet and is making too many mistakes. Vick must get it together, fast.

2. San Francisco 49ers (2-1) at New York Jets (2-1)

These teams' head coaches normally are more self-assured than an evangelist on Easter. But you could understand if the mojo meters of Frisco's Jim Harbaugh and the Jets' Rex Ryan aren't red-lining this week. Last Sunday, the lowly Minnesota Vikings thumped the Niners, and Ryan lost his defensive superman, cornerback Darrelle Revis, for the year. Frisco's defence could render the Jets' woeful offence immobile.

3. New Orleans Saints (0-3) at Green Bay Packers (1-2)

How'dja like to be in the desperate position of needing your first win of the year on the road to be at Lambeau Field? Against a proud Packers team that just got poked in both eyes by the replacement refs? And how'dja like to pit your league-worst defence against a mad quarterback in Aaron Rodgers? Right. Good luck, Saints.

4. Carolina Panthers (1-2) at Atlanta Falcons (3-0)

Manning and the Giants pulled the Panthers' pants down on national TV a week ago Thursday. Cam Newton, Steve Smith and co. have had 10 days to stew over it. Newton is taking heat for, critics say, pouting rather than leading with "we'll-show-them" pluck. But it's real tough to win in Atlanta. Ask Peyton Manning.

MUST-WIN SUNDAY

DETROIT LIONS (1-2)

About once a decade, this jinxed franchise fields a team with one or two superstars that reaches the playoffs maybe a year ahead of schedule. Then, with hopes raised, Detroit invariably falls back into many more years of mediocrity. That cycle could retrigger if the Lions lose at home to a surprising Minnesota Vikings squad. Detroit's defensive-line needs to step up, especially if Lions quarterback Matt Stafford is hampered by his hip and hamstring. Detroit can't fall to 1-3.

WEEK 4 SCHEDULE & CANADIAN TV TIMES


SUNDAY

1 p.m. EDT games

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (CTV Toronto, CTV Kitchener, CTV Montreal and CTV Atlantic)

Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions (CTV Winnipeg)

Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets (CTV Ottawa, CTV Northern Ontario, CTV Saskatchewan)

Seattle Seahawks at St. Louis Rams (CTV British Columbia, CTV Alberta)

4:05 p.m. EDT games

Miami Dolphins at Arizona Cardinals

Cincinnati Bengals at Jacksonville Jaguars

Oakland Raiders at Denver Broncos (Sportsnet Ontario, West, Pacific)

4:25 p.m. EDT games

New Orleans Saints at Green Bay Packers (Citytv and Sportsnet East)

Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8:20 p.m. EDT game

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (TSN/NBC)

MONDAY

8:30 p.m. EDT game

Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (TSN)

BYES

Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

NOTE

Local American Fox and CBS affiliates carry games as well, which might be in addition to the above.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL

Chicago Bears (2-1) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)

Hey, wouldn't it be something if this game went down to a Hail Mary pass at the end? And the real refs got the call wrong? Ha! Fun for everyone. Failing that fine kettle of fish, this game features two of the league's best pass defences — Chicago's because of its pass rush, Dallas' because of its coverage. A safety could win it.


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