- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 20, 2015

LANDOVER — Ever since Matt Jones led the Washington Redskins in rushing yards during the preseason, he was enticed by the idea of playing a pivotal role in the team’s offense.

The rookie third-round draft pick felt liberated in the Redskins‘ power-running scheme — a change he cherished after his career with the Florida Gators was not exactly what he had hoped it would be.

Jones played more than just a pivotal role in Sunday’s 24-10 win against the St. Louis Rams. He was the spark that lit the Redskins‘ rushing attack, running for 123 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.

“I wanted to pound the rock and that’s what I did today,” Jones said. “It’s just great for this team to go out there and get a win. We’ve been wanting it all week. We prepared the way we should to go get this win and I’m so happy that we got it.”

From the moment Jones turned the corner on a 39-yard touchdown in the first quarter — his second carry of the game — he set the tone for the Redskins offense, which gained 373 yards compared to the Rams‘ 213. They out-rushed them, 182-67.

The Redskins‘ offensive line neutralized the Rams‘ aggressive defensive front. Left tackle Trent Williams often sealed the edge for Jones, while left guard Shawn Lauvao pulled as the lead blocker.

SEE ALSO: SNYDER: Jay Gruden’s words hold greater weight after victory over Rams

When the Redskins needed short yards, they deployed a three-tight end set of Jordan Reed, Derek Carrier and Anthony McCoy.

Last season, the Rams shutout the Redskins, 24-0, and held them to 27 yards on the ground. On Sunday, the Redskins had carved the Rams defense for 79 rushing yards in the first quarter.

The Redskins‘ successful rushing attack allowed them to control the tempo and take a 17-0 halftime lead. When the Rams scored 10 unanswered points in the third quarter, the Redskins used the run game to grind down the clock, rushing 10 times for 40 yards. Jones scored on a three-yard run with 2:38 left to seal the win.

Morris, who rushed for 121 yards last week against the Dolphins, rushed for 59 yards on 18 carries.

“I was just feeding off of Alfred today,” Jones said. “It just felt like a winning energy. We knew we were going to win the game. We were just executing everything we could.”

It’s fitting that Jones‘ 100-yard performance was the first by a Redskins rookie since Morris did it in 2012 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rushing for 113 yards in Week 4.

Earlier in the preseason, Jones credited Morris with easing his transition from college to the NFL, saying he feels like Morris’ “little brother” in the backfield.

Jones also said he was surprised the Redskins‘ incumbent back was so welcoming — not an indictment on Morris’ character, but because he was a rookie and Morris a veteran.

Morris never hesitated to take Jones under his wing, something veteran fullback Darrel Young and former Redskins running back Tim Hightower did for him in 2012.

“They showed me the ropes, they taught me how to be a pro,” Morris said. “Of course, I want to pay it forward so hopefully when [Jones is] the guy, he’s doing the same thing for the younger guys. I just wanted to ease him out a little, give him that comfort of, ‘Oh, this guy isn’t trying to give me the cold shoulder, that he’s helpful.’

“That makes it so much easier for these guys and he’s such a great guy anyways. He’s smart. He’s talented. I’m happy for him. Some guys would reject that, you’re trying to extend a hand, I don’t want your help type deal. I’m glad he listened.”

Jones finished with one more carry than Morris and the Redskins‘ go-to back carried the ball just three times in the third quarter.

That wasn’t necessarily by design. It was about finding a winning game plan.

“There will be some games where it may not happen like that,” Gruden said. “Our plan is to keep both backs fresh. I intend on them both getting plenty of touches. [Running backs] coach Randy Jordan does a great job with the substitution pattern. I don’t really care who is in there. They’re both very, very good football players as long as they’re fresh.”

Even when Jones fumbled in the third quarter, which led to a Rams touchdown and allowed them to pull within seven, the Redskins went back to him in the fourth quarter.

Jones was picked up by his teammates, something that he said helped him quickly put it behind him.

“I’m glad I bounced back and I’m glad it happened to me because I’m definitely going to learn from this this,” Jones said. “I had Trent Williams come up to me, ‘It’s all right man, you’ll get back in there.’”

Jones‘ confidence never wavered on Sunday, and it wasn’t without reason.

After the way he ran, he left no doubt about what he can bring to the Redskins‘ offense.

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