Alfred Morris provides the 49ers with much more than depth

The Niners sign Kyle Shanahan’s old friend to shore up backfield

Tommy Call
August 16, 2018 - 5:19 pm

The San Francisco 49ers went into training camp with a revamped backfield after losing Carlos Hyde and signing Kyle Shanahan’s new weapon, Jerick McKinnon. Now, as camp concludes, McKinnon and backup Matt Breida are on the shelf with injuries leaving the group short.

The 49ers turned to Shanahan’s old friend, Alfred Morris, to add depth to an injury-riddled bunch of backs. Signing Morris looks like a move to grab a guy off the scrapheap, but Morris should be in Santa Clara to stay.

Morris was originally handpicked by Shanahan in the 2012 draft out of Florida Atlantic University. We currently value any offensive players Shanahan tabs such as Jimmy Garoppolo, Dante Pettis and the aforementioned McKinnon. Fast forward a few years and Morris and Shanahan are paired together again, this time wearing red.

Morris feasted in Shanahan’s system, running for 1613 and 1275 yards, respectively, in Shanahan's two seasons as the offensive coordinator in Washington. Morris also punched in 20 touchdowns with Shanahan calling the plays.

This relationship is good for a few reasons.

Morris had his best production under Shanahan and the coach trusts the back, a win-win for both sides. Trust had to play a big factor in signing Morris. Trust is something Shanahan has for Morris, but not the healthy backs on his roster.  

Joe Williams has had a ton of hype and now has the opportunity, but he has yet to impress. With two running backs injured, it’s easy to assume the former fourth rounder would be the guy the 49ers could depend on — instead they signed the 29 year-old-veteran tailback. Morris will now put immense pressure on Williams to produce, and if he doesn’t, he could be hitting the free-agent market sooner than later.

Outside of trust, another factor that could seal Morris’s role on this team is reliability. Even if McKinnon and Breida are healthy no backs on the 49ers roster have the type of experience Morris has. McKinnon’s career high in carries is 159, Morris’ is 335. Morris has shown he can do it at all levels of the NFL — whether it’s being the team’s bellc ow or being a solid backup, like he was last season in Dallas rushing for a career best 4.8 yards-per carry.

Lastly, there is a heavy chance Morris is already very familiar with Shanahan’s scheme and playbook from their past time together. Even though Morris has missed the start of 49ers training camp, he should jump right in with knowledge of the offense.

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