In what some would call a surprising move, the San Francisco 49ers signed former Dallas Cowboy and free agent running back Alfred Morris. At first glance this would seem like head coach Kyle Shanahan bringing in a guy to fill in for injured RBs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida.

But when you look a little deeper, this signing is a bit more than adding some depth to cover for injuries. Morris has a serious chance at making this football team.

Morris stands at 5-foot-10 and 224 pounds, making him the heaviest RB on the 49ers roster by 20 pounds. His powerful downhill running style is something the 49ers previously did not have on the roster. Complementary running styles can greatly benefit an offense and Shanahan knows just how to use Morris.

In 2012, Alfred Morris was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round. From 2012-2013, Kyle Shanahan was the Redskins offensive coordinator and during those two seasons Morris racked up an astonishing 3,043 yards from scrimmage, 20 touchdowns and an average of 4.8 yards per carry.


After Shanahan left the Redskins, Morris' numbers started to dwindle but so did his touches. He was then released by the Redskins and signed by the Dallas Cowboys. Near the end of the 2017 season he was given the chance to start again and an opportunity for a full workload in the absence of suspended RB Ezekiel Elliott. In the five games that Morris started he averaged 79 yards per game and finished the season with an average of 4.8 yards per carry.

Morris showed he still has the ability to produce at a high level in a specific role. Talking about a specific role is where his signing with the 49ers becomes interesting. Morris can fill a role that third string RB Joe Williams cannot...power. His knowledge of Shanahan's offense and ability to run between the tackles is valuable.

Williams at this point has done very little to cement a spot on the 53-man roster and Shanahan knows exactly what he is getting with Morris.

One big sign that points to Morris' chance at making the team is that the 49ers did not need to sign him. Heading into the second preseason game, the team still had three healthy RBs in Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert and Jeremy McNichols. Breida and McKinnon are to be reevaluated next week and it seems like they will be healthy. So why would the 49ers sign Morris if they had enough depth at the position?

"It's not flashy, but he runs extremely hard," Shanahan said of Morris. "He's very reliable. You're blocking for zero, usually, he can get at least one. He's a hard-nosed runner who you can keep handing the ball off to."

This quote by Shanahan about Morris says a lot, specifically the end. The 49ers did not have a RB like that, both McKinnon and Breida are finesse RBs who can beat you outside and are serious receiving threats. But they are not the type of RBs to wear on a defense late in games. Morris is that RB.

This brings us back to the role that was mentioned earlier and a big reason why Morris' chances to make the roster are better than most think. It certainly will be an uphill battle and Morris has to play his best football to beat out Williams. But Williams hasn't done himself any favors with his past performances. This may light a fire in Williams and that could have been Shanahan's plan all along. But Morris is going to fight for a spot.

Morris knows how to produce in Shanahan's scheme and the next few weeks will be interesting to watch. The RB position for the 49ers is loaded with talent and the best guys are going to make the cut. Will Morris be one of them?

*Shanahan's quote was taken from 49ers Webzone writer David Bonilla