Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive coaches were digging for signs of life in their rushing attack after poor showings in Weeks 1-2. General Manager John Lynch did his part, scrounging through the veteran free-agent bin, finding running back Alfred Morris last week and signing him to a contract.
It’s safe to say things have gotten off to a good start. Morris rushed 17 times for 84 yards. But for a guy who joined the team ten days ago, it was a solid showing. It helps that he has experience in Shanahan’s system, when the two worked together in Washington for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Morris’ two best seasons as a tailback came under Shanahan’s tutelage, rushing for over 1,000 yards each year.
With the top two running backs, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, sidelined for preseason with nagging injuries, the 49ers were looking someone else to step up and become the bell cow. Raheem Mostert? Ehhhh, hurt after one preseason game. Jeremy McNichols? Showed flashes, but not consistent enough. Joe Williams? Hasn’t proved his value to the team.
Earlier in the week, Kyle Shanahan announced that Morris would working with the starting offense on Saturday — a sign that the coaches trusted the ex-Cowboy over the other options on the roster. Morris rewarded that trust with a monster performance on Saturday.
Morris opened the game with a 17-yard run that was called back by the illegal formation penalty. He responded with an 11 yard run on the next playHe finished the game with giant gashes of 11, 10, 6, 9, 9, 11 yards — all against the Colts’ first-team defense.
Here’s his 11-yard run after the penalty. It is a basic hand off to Morris, who patiently makes his run behind the offensive line, after they do a good job of holding their blocks.
A few drives later, Shanahan lets Morris carry the 49ers’ offense again on his legs, giving him the hand off, as it leads to a gain of 11 yards.
These were just a few of the highlights that Morris displayed on Saturday. This was his audition for a spot on the final 53-man roster and he’s done everything to earn it after a half of play. After the game, Shanahan said, “It looked like he got more than what they blocked for him.” That would seem to bode well for Morris’ roster chances.
Looks like it’s time for Morris to find a permanent house in Santa Clara for the season and maybe upgrade his 1991 Mazda.