Robert Kelley isn’t afraid of a challenge on the football field. That was certainly true last season when he worked his way from the bottom of the team’s depth chart at running back to eventually assume the starting role for the final nine games of the season.
“Everywhere I went they had a good running back there,” Kelley said this week on “Redskins Nation.” “I never wondered why anything hadn’t been given to me. Even when I came here it was never given to me, I had to work for it. It’s a job. You have to work for it.”
Kelley’s season numbers in 2016 were rather remarkable considering where he began and what he dealt with down the stretch. He was active for the first two games of the season, but didn’t get any action on offense until a Week 3 victory over the New York Giants.
He remained in the third running back role over the course of the first half of the season, but with Jones sidelined by a knee injury for the Redskins’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals in London in Week 8, Kelley received his first career start.
That was followed by eight consecutive starts following the Bye Week, as Kelley finished the season with 168 carries for 704 yards and six touchdowns despite dealing with a knee injury he had surgery on in January.
Kelley is one of four players in franchise history to record at least 150 carries in a season without fumbling, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Cliff Battles, Jim Musick and Alfred Morris.
Kelley says a lot of the credit from his season-long performance should be given to running backs coach Randy Jordan.
“I think it helped my performance in a major way,” Kelley said. “In college I didn’t have anyone around like that. I was working for everything. I think it was pretty easy this year running behind those guys.”
While some mock drafts currently have Washington selecting Florida State running back Dalvin Cook with the No. 17-overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, Kelley remains penciled in as the team’s starting running back for the 2017 season.
Jones will compete to earn back playing time and
“I feel good about him,” said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden at the NFL Combine earlier this month. “He’s a big, strong, physical kid. He’s going to get stronger. To throw him into situations we threw him into where he didn’t blink and had no nerves whatsoever, he’s going to get better and better. Runs hard, great vision, I like him a lot.”