RICHMOND -- It's a hairy situation with the Washington Redskins backfield these days and we're not talking about running the ball effectively.
Starter Matt Jones, seventh round pick Keith Marshall and undrafted free agent Robert Kelley share a specific trait their helmets cannot hide. Good. When it comes to dreadlocks, the longer the better.
"I think Kelley has been growing it the longest. He's got the longest dreads. I'm kind of jealous of that right now," Jones said. "His kind of come over his number. I'm kind of jealous of that. I want to get to that (length).
Along with the tight-cut sporting Chris Thompson, Jones is the only holdover from last year's squad. The second-year back is quick to help his "dudes" when it comes to the playbook, reading blocks -- and giving tips about how to deal with all that hair on game day.
"I had to tell them guys that last year I got my hair pulled in the Eagles game," Jones said. "You have to watch out or tuck it in or do something with it. ... We play football. If somebody goes to pull it, I'm telling you..."
Thompson and Mack Brown, who was on and of the practice squad last season, don't have such problems. The dreadlock trio notice.
"We discuss how the other guys, Chris Thompson and Mack Brown need to grow their hair like us. Tell them to get some dreads," Kelley joked. "Make the room one."
It would be a lot cooler stylistically if they did. Yet playing football in scorching temperatures can make anyone dread the dreadlocks.
Kelley, who roomed with Marshall during training camp, admitted his fashion choice is currently a professional burden.
"Every day I contemplate cutting my hair or not," the New Orleans native said before noting the plan's flaw. "I'm going to miss it if I cut it. So after years of growing it, I can't make that decision in one day."
If not careful, Kelly's decision could be made for him.
"I think I'm going to do the rookie hazing on (Kelley) and cut (his hair) in his sleep," a joking, but envious Jones said.
Such a hasty decision would take away the lookalike aspect. While the 195-pound Thompson is pure scatback, the long-haired threesome are each rugged types with good height and weighing in the 222-232 range.
"We all kind of look similar," Jones said. "Coach (Jay Gruden) sometimes confuses us when he calls me. He kind of gets us mixed up. For the most part it's fun. We know we have long hair. ...It's cool to have that going on in the backfield."
Style points are one thing. Whether the running backs can help Washington score points is another. The Redskins were 30th in yards per carry (3.7) last season and several national previews are expecting much better results.
"I don't really care about that," Jones said of outside projections before Thursday's preseason opener. "I'm out here grinding with my dudes in the backfield. We're feeling great about the season."
Of the dreadlock three, Jones is the only roster lock. Marshall, Kelley and Brown are in the midst of a tight battle for possibly one spot on the 53-man roster.
If Marshall or Kelley or both make the roster, if the offensive line improves in this area, perhaps the saying about the Redskins running game won't be some version of the unwanted "three yards and a cloud of dust."
Having fans roar at opponents "Dread the Dreadlocks" is way cooler.
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