PITTSBURGH – The Washington Redskins’ fabulous rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is the NFL’s most accurate passer and has the third-best passer rating of all quarterbacks and is an absolute gazelle while running the football.
According to the Bovada Sportsbook, he’s the heavy favorite to win the league’s Rookie of the Year award.
If his unheralded teammate doesn’t beat him to it.
While RG3 has become a household nickname and media darling, the Redskins have another rookie named Alfred Morris who’s only drawing praise from the guys who watch tape for a living.
“We have to know where number 10 is,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said when the predictable wave of Griffin questions came from reporters on Thursday.
“But they have a guy that wears number 46. He is leading their conference and is second in the league in rushing. You don’t want to turn your back on that guy because you were looking at Griffin the whole time.”
Morris, No. 46, is a tank-like, 5-10, 219-pounder who pounds the middle of defenses while Griffin threatens the edge.
Five rounds after the Redskins drafted Griffin with the second overall pick last April, they drafted Morris out of Florida Atlantic with the 173rd pick.
Both of them are a load to tackle. Both of them are responsible for the Redskins pounding out a league-high 1,214 rushing yards. And both of them are close to becoming the NFL’s first set of QB/RB teammates with at least 500 yards rushing in their rookie seasons.
Griffin is the pistol quarterback who directs the spread attack. He’s rushed for 468 yards and 6 touchdowns, already team records for his position.
But Morris is the NFC rushing leader, and with 658 yards trails NFL leader Arian Foster by 1 yard.
Still, the question begs: Who’s Alfred Morris?
“I actually don’t remember,” said Steelers cornerback Curtis Brown, who was part of a Texas defense that allowed Morris 80 yards on 18 carries in 2010. “I was trying to remember who he was earlier today because somebody else asked me. But I don’t remember him. I don’t know at all. Sorry.”
Chris Rainey had no words, just a shrug at the mention of Morris’s name. Rainey was asked if he even remembered playing Florida Atlantic last year.
“I definitely remember playing them,” Rainey said. “Yeah, come to think of it I think he was doing a little something on us in that game.”
Excuse Rainey for not remembering Morris’s 16 yards on 14 carries. Rainey was a little busy scoring three touchdowns via catch, run and return of his own blocked punt in Florida’s 41-3 win.
Sean Spence had also never heard of Morris – a fellow Florida first-team All-State back in high school – until the Senior Bowl.
“He was a late invitee,” Spence said. “He came from the East-West Shrine game. He was a fullback. He wasn’t getting many carries, but as you can see the guy’s a great player, a hard, tough runner.”
Credit Spence, a linebacker, with knowing quality when he sees it. As did Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who had been looking for a “bell cow” running back since taking over the Redskins in 2010.
“I felt after the preseason games that we knew we had something special,” said Shanahan. “I just like the way he ran our offense and the way he handled himself. He’s a very humble guy, works extremely hard and is a very talented kid.”
For all of his relative anonymity, Morris is known as the all-time leading rusher at Florida Atlantic University. He was also the first player in Howard Schnellenberger’s 27 years of coaching to rush for 1,000 yards twice.
“They played some excellent teams and some of his runs were just off the charts,” Shanahan said. “We felt lucky that he fit our running style, and I don’t think many people are alert to him.”
So the Redskins come to town off a 248-yard rushing performance against the defending champion New York Giants. Griffin (89) and Morris (120) combined for 209 of those yards out of a college option attack the Redskins call “The East Coast Offense.”
“It’s a little different for linebackers,” Shanahan said. “We feel they can use the quarterback being under the center, and sometimes if you’re in the pistol or the shotgun it’s just something that people don’t see all the time. We know it sometimes gives our defense a hard time because they’re just not used to it. We’ll do under the center and we’ll be in the pistol. It all depends on what type of team we play.”
And whether that team can tackle the two rookies who’ve suddenly become the best one-two running punch in the game.
NOTES – RB Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles’) missed his second practice of the week, and the Steelers’ No. 2 RB, Isaac Redman (ankle), was limited at Thursday’s practice. The Steelers might have to play a second consecutive game with Jonathan Dwyer, Rainey, Baron Batch and Will Johnson as their running backs. The four have combined in their careers to carry 96 times for 418 yards (4.4 avg.) and 2 touchdowns.