In sports, like life, we tend to tell the new guy taking over for a beloved former employee:
“Don’t try to do too much. Just do your job and let your teammates do theirs.”
“Don’t worry about trying to be __________, just be the best you that you can be. Play your game.”
But when it comes to the running back position for the burgundy & gold, this is where it is imperative to stray away from that norm. For Matt Jones to succeed this season, he will need to do the most amazing Alfred Morris impersonation possible.
Over the course of four seasons, Morris, the former sixth round pick out of Florida Atlantic put up numbers that placed him 5th all-time on the teams rushing list (4713 yds). His career per carry average of 4.4ypc, is higher than that of John Riggins, Clinton Portis and Stephen Davis– only Brian Mitchell and Joe Washington held higher averages among RBs in team history with at least 300 carries.
|ALFRED MORRIS (career numbers)|
Despite his numbers declining from year to year, one of Morris’ best attributes was his ability to fall forward after contact. An even greater aspect of his game however, is the fact that in four seasons (64 regular season games), he never missed a start.
Jones, who is bigger, faster, has better hands and a more explosive running style, is potentially the more talented of the two. However as a rotation level back his rookie season, he missed three games plus the playoff game against Green Bay with toe and hip injuries. In order for the team to reap the rewards of his being a physical upgrade, he will need to work just as hard at film study and running with lower pad level, as he does at taking care of his body.
Morris mentioned in the offseason following his monster rookie year, how the vets taught him the importance of the hot and cold tub. As well as setting up regular chiropractor visits and massages. With the wear and tear of life as an every down back on the horizon, any physical advantage he can give himself is a benefit.
In 2013, Alfred saw his fumble count rise to the highest of his career with five (losing four). Matt equaled that total last year (5 fumbles, 4 lost) on almost half that number of carries (144). From the news coming out of Ashburn this offseason, it sounds like that has been priority number one in working with him. Here’s to hoping that work carries over to when the pads come on and games start to count.
It is very rare in today’s professional sports landscape to find athletes that produce at a high level from day one, that aren’t divas or headcases to some degree. On that front Alf is the anti-pro athlete stereotype. The man faithfully drives a 1991 Mazda 626, and pre-gamed before home games by fellowshipping with FedEx Field employees.
No one is asking or expecting Matt Jones to be, THAT guy, unless he genuinely chooses to be. But picking up the subtle nuances (dependability, patience, staying low and knowing when to go down) of the back that took him under his wing as a rookie, despite constant mentioning of his being the heir apparent– let’s just say there are a lot worse guys to emulate.
featured image: "Matt Jones" by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY 2.0