NFL

NFL AM: Cowboys Sign Alfred Morris

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Dallas Cowboys sign Alfred Morris:

The Dallas Cowboys have added tailback Alfred Morris to help carry the load out of the backfield in 2016. The former Washington Redskins back is a more physical back who can shoulder some of the load for Darren McFadden and the Dallas offense.

Morris is a welcome addition to a Cowboys team that struggled to find a consistent back-up for McFadden, as they have to be concerned whether the eight-year veteran can get through another season without a major injury.

McFadden played in all 16 games each of the last two seasons, but has a history of missing games. If he had gone down a season ago it would have been an absolute disaster, but the signing of Morris makes the Cowboys backfield situation much more secure.

Jerry Jones spoke on the signing at the owner’s meetings Tuesday and explained that while McFadden would remain the starter, Morris would have a very large role in the Dallas offense.

“Morris will be more limited in his carries than McFadden,” Jones said. “But I do see substantive workload there for him, but not as much as McFadden.”

While the Morris signing provides more security for the Cowboys’ backfield, Jones believes that McFadden could see even more work than he did in 2015 after showing that he gets better with more work.

“I know that we are pleased and are more confident that McFadden can have more work than we thought at this time last year,” Jones explained. “I think he does his best when he’s got more work. Of course he’s had two back-to-back years of good health, and so I’m just thinking … that if he can pick up right where we left off at the end of the year, he’d end up … having a lot of the workload.”

Regardless of what the split in carries will be, this is a very good fit for both sides as it will help extend Morris’ career while providing some much needed insurance for the Boys. For Dallas to land a back they know can handle the load if McFadden goes down was imperative, and for Morris to land in a spot with an offensive line that can open up the kind of holes for him that the Cowboys can will be equally as big for his career.

Morris ran for over 1,600 yards as a rookie in 2012, but he’s seen his carries, yards, yards-per-attempt, and touchdowns all go down each season in Washington before finally losing the starting gig to former University of Florida rookie Matt Jones last season. While it’s unlikely he’ll see a huge bump in any category as the back up in Dallas, don’t be surprised if his yards-per-carry gets better as he runs behind the best offensive line in football.

Justin Houston has ACL procedure, could miss beginning of season:

Justin Houston missed the final five regular season games of the Kansas City Chiefs’ season before returning for the playoffs, and now it looks like the veteran linebacker could miss some time at the beginning of the 2016 season.

Chiefs trainer Rick Buckholder talked to reporters Tuesday, and explained that Houston had his ACL “fixed,” adding that while it wasn’t torn, it also wasn’t functioning the way that it should. Buckholder added that it’s hard to tell when Houston will be ready to go because the recovery could take between 6-12 months.

Houston is a very important cog in the Chiefs defense, and one of the premiere pass rushers in the game when healthy. Kansas City did a nice job of retaining some of their important defensive free agents like Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, but with a secondary that will be adjusting to life without Sean Smith, getting pressure on the quarterback will be as important as ever.

Speaking at the owner’s meetings Tuesday, head coach Andy Reid also acknowledged that it’s way too early to know if Houston will be ready to go when the season begins, even sounding a bit pessimistic by saying, “we’re hoping he’ll be able to play next season.”

Perhaps Reid just misspoke, but any suggestion that Houston could miss the season in its entirety (which seems unlikely) has to concern Kansas City fans. The Chiefs have a handful of key players, and a couple of superstars. As we saw a season ago when Jamaal Charles went down, they’re a team that will do everything it can to overcome whatever hits it takes, but Houston is about as important a player as they have on their team, so getting the pass rusher back in the fold will be an absolute priority heading into the 2016 season.

NFL announces rule changes:

The chop block is now illegal in any situation, the extra point has been moved permanently, and the horse-collar rule has been revised, but the NFL once again missed its opportunity to give coaches the ability to challenge some of the biggest plays of the game.

The NFL moving the extra point back to the 15-yard-line permanently was a no-brainer. The league got exactly what they wanted this year when a missed extra point actually factored into the outcome of a playoff game. The rule was changed to make extra points more challenging and the game more exciting, and the reality is as much as some of us mocked the idea at its inception, it worked.

Two of the rule changes revolve around player safety, and neither of them are much of a surprise. Some have argued that new rules to protect players from concussions have resulted in more leg injuries, so it’s no surprise to see the league address a couple of situations that lead to leg injuries, even though they aren’t situations that could result in concussions if not addressed.

The chop block has been eliminated from the game completely. In previous years it was only illegal to employ a chop block on a defender who was already engaged with another player, but now the league wants to eliminate the play all together.

Defenders will now have to be even more careful when tackling a player from behind, as the horse-collar rule has been adjusted to include the area, “at the nameplate or above.”

The NFL has also eliminated the five-yard penalty for a receiver illegally touching a forward pass after going out of bounds and re-establishing himself in bounds. Instead of the penalty, the play will now result in a loss of downs.

The league also eliminated multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession. Honestly, who even knew that was a thing?

Another rule change will allow offensive and defensive play callers to use the headset communication system whether they are in the press box or on the field.

Lastly, NFL teams will now face a delay of game penalty when they attempt to call a timeout when they are not allowed to.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.