When the Redskins selected Georgia's Keith Marshall in the seventh round of the NFL Draft, there was a lot of hype about his ability to run like the wind. Many penciled Marshall in as the third-string running back behind Matt Jones and Chris Thompson, but that might not be the case, especially if Robert Kelley turns early offseason hype into training camp gold.
Marshall missed the last week of OTAs and both days of Redskins minicamp with a hamstring injury. His inability to get on the field and display his talent has allowed others, specifically Kelley, to make an impression on coaches.
"He has done good," head coach Jay Gruden said of the undrafted rookie. "He is one of those guys that you really don’t know a lot about, but ‘Who’s number 22? Who is that? That’s Kelley making another big play.'"
At Tulane, Kelley was asked to do everything -- run, catch, pass block and even lead block as a fullback. A big back similar to Jones, the 6-foot-0, 228-pounder uses his size to punish would-be tacklers.
"He has got great, low center of gravity when he runs the ball," Gruden said. "I think he is going to be a tough guy to tackle when it’s all said and done."
During his career with the Green Wave, Kelley totaled 1,270 yards on the ground, averaging a smidgen less than 4 yards per carry with six touchdowns. He tacked on 727 receiving yards and six more scores.
Kelley also brings special teams experience to the Redskins as a kickoff returner, recording 1,370 yards on 67 opportunities (20.4-yard average). He also lined up on defense a little bit.
"Every year my role changed," Kelley detailed in an interview with Redskins.com. "The first year, I returned kicks. The second year, I caught the ball and my junior year, I ran the ball a lot."
Should Marshall miss any more time due to injury, Kelley will have an even bigger opportunity to seize a roster spot. The next step for the bruiser is to show the coaching staff his physicality in full uniform during training camp.
"He went to Tulane and did some good things and I think he has a chance," Gruden said of Kelley's odds of making the final roster. "We will see what happens when we get the pads on."
Kelley's ability to play fullback when called upon -- a position the Redskins will likely not fill otherwise -- and his special teams knowledge are what will give the 23-year-old his best chances of being a Redskin come Week 1.
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