The man crush seemingly began back in May when the overall team received their first look at the undrafted free agent from Tulane and then bloomed during training camp under the relentless Richmond sun. Kelley went from just a guy to making the 53-man roster as one of three running backs. Matt Jones entered the campaign as the clear starter, but a new one after serving as Alfred Morris' tag-team partner/understudy the previous season. Gruden stated Kelley would essentially inherit that role before this season kicked off.
That hasn't happened, not yet. Except that Kelley's workload ticked up in Sunday's 16-10 win at Baltimore, he had the team's longest run and the head coach made a point of saying expect more. Kelley made a point of letting Breaking Burgundy know that he's ready.
"I didn't know," he said of additional snaps that were coming his way against the Ravens. "I just go out there and play. Some games they might decide to put me out there, some games they don't. (Running backs coach Randy) Jordan just wants me to be prepared every time they call on me. That's what it is."
Kelley remained third in snaps behind Jones and Chris Thompson. His eight snaps represented only 12 percent of Washington's total offensive plays, though he received only five combined the previous two weeks. His three carries were actually one less than what Kelley received in Week 3 against the Giants, though those four runs (or seven yards) were his only moments in the offensive huddle.
There are reasons for Kelley intrigue, beyond Gruden saying Monday, "I think you’ll see more of Robert. I think Robert shows that he’s deserving of some carries. You know, we like Matt Jones, but I think there’s a good combination there where the both of them can get the ball."
Jones, who fumbled five times last season, lost his first of the season in the second quarter. Whether related or not, the Redskins used Kelley and Thompson on the opening drive of the second half. His 16-yard came later in the quarter on Washington's final scoring drive. Kelley's final carry was a 1-yard loss, but the key note is that in came on the opening play of a drive with 9:18 remaining and the Redskins nursing a six-point lead.
Letting a rookie with minimal experience handle the ball in that spot shows trust. That Kelley has looked mature in all facets from the jump helps. His impressive vision, instincts and decisiveness showed on the long run. Those traits are not always associated with Jones.
The Redskins were not as balanced offensively as the previous two weeks, but they had more attempts in the second half (12 to 8) of their third straight win.
"That's important," Kelley said. "It sets up your play-action and all those types of things. You can't become one-dimensional. You become one-dimensional and it becomes easy for other teams to figure you out. Running the ball, even when it's not working for you, is a good thing. It helps out."
As for why the team rebounded after the 0-2 start, the rookie said, "The coaches put together a plan and everybody has to execute, hold themselves accountable. Realizing what you did wrong and going back in there and correcting it."
It's probably not fair to say the coaches made a mistake not using Kelley more to this point; Jones is averaging 4.1 yards per carry going 14 for 31 Sunday. It does seem like they're on the verge of making sure they send the rookie back on the field more and more.
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