Robert Kelley

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Redskins Playbook: One stat where Rob Kelley is way better than Ezekiel Elliott

Redskins Playbook: One stat where Rob Kelley is way better than Ezekiel Elliott

The point here is not to suggest Robert Kelley is a better running back than Ezekiel Elliott. Both players were rookies last season, Elliott drafted in the top five out of Ohio State and Kelley undrafted out of Tulane. 

Elliott led the NFL in rushing, gaining more than 1,600 yards and averaging more than 5 yards-per-carry. Kelley did not take over the Redskins No. 1 RB job until mid-season, and while he didn't even rush for 1,000 yards; he gained 700 yards in nine starts and averaged more than 4 YPC.

There was one stat, however, where Kelley stood out. Pro Football Focus provides the baseline.

The statistic stands out for Jordan Howard, a star rookie runner for the Bears. Howard ran for more than 1,300 yards last season on 252 carries to get to his 40 misses. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

Elliott's run totals were much, much higher. The Cowboys star ran the ball 322 times, resulting in 36 missed tackles. Kelley ran the ball just 168 times, and made 35 defenders miss. 

Using basic math, Elliott made a defender miss about every 8.9 carries. Kelley made a defender miss about every 4.8 carries. 

Redskins coaches talked repeatedly about Kelley's vision and ability to make defenders miss as a big part of his ascension to the top running back spot. Ends up, they were right. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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True or False: Rob Kelley will be Redskins leading rusher

True or False: Rob Kelley will be Redskins leading rusher

Robert Kelley emerged as the Redskins top running back in 2016, an incredible story of an undrafted guy working his way to the top. Of course, Matt Jones' problems with fumbling helped push Kelley to the top. 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden speaks highly of Kelley, particularly his fluidity and vision, but the team drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round this year to provide additional competition in the backfield.

Here's the crucial statement: Rob Kelley will lead the Redskins in rushing yards in 2017.

Finlay: True.

Kelley averaged 4.2 yards-per-carry last season and the Redskins ground game is very much centered on a "four or more" philosophy. Washington running backs coach Randy Jordan joined the #RedskinsTalk podcast and explained that the team wants a runner it can count on for positive yards more than creating big plays. The Redskins offense, as designed by Gruden, sets up for big plays in the passing game, and the run should allow for proper use of play action. 

In just nine starts last year, Kelley gained more than 700 yards. Project that out over 16 games, and he would be over 1,000 yards rushing. Perine has much to learn about the NFL, and understanding pass protections will take time for the rookie out of Oklahoma. Chris Thompson will be a key part of the offense, but much of his yardage will come via the pass game. 

Kelley will lead this team in rush yards. He's looked great in OTAs and minicamp while the coaching staff believes Kelley is in much better shape this year than he was as a rookie. Write it down in pen. 

RELATED: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

Tandler: True.

After the draft and during rookie camp, I was saying that there was a chance that Perine could lead the team is rushing this year. But after seeing Perine playing with the big boys in OTAs and minicamp it’s apparent that he has a long way to go to become a consistently productive running back.

One thing Kelley seems to have going in his favor is that he has a very sensible outlook on the NFL. As JP noted, Kelley showed up to Redskins Park in better shape than he did as a rookie. This indicates to me that he understands that being an NFL player is a year-round job. Staying in great shape is important in the league, but at running back it’s vital. Kelley gets that and because he does, his chances of being available for 16 games are much higher.

In turn, that improves his chance of being the team’s leading rusher. I’m not sure if he’ll get 1,000 yards—Perine will get things figured out enough to take some carries before the season gets too old—but Gruden will make sure that he gets fed plenty as long as he is available. 

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

 

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Jay Gruden already sees numerous improvements in Rob Kelley's game

Jay Gruden already sees numerous improvements in Rob Kelley's game

How much difference does a year make? When it comes to Robert Kelley, about eight strings.

"I joked around and said, 'Last year at this time you were the ninth-string running back for God’s sakes,'" Redskins coach Jay Gruden said on Wednesday at OTAs. "And now he’s the guy. So it’s exciting to see how far he’s come in a short period of time." 

Gruden's assessment is funny, but also true. Rewind a little more than 365 days, and you'll return to a time when Kelley didn't look like much more than a spare camp body who could handle a few carries during the offseason while guys like Matt Jones and Chris Thompson rested.

But as things currently stand, the former undrafted player out of Tulane is now the guy according to Gruden, and knowing that his job is safe even in a deep backfield has allowed Kelley to focus more on his game and less on simply hanging around.

MORE REDSKINS: THE ONE BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GRUDEN BROTHERS

"Last year, I was trying to make the team," the 24-year-old said. "This year, it's more like just elevating the game. Working on small things in the game to bring it to the next level to be one of those top guys."

Gruden has already noticed the many ways in which Kelley has progressed, too.

"With that experience comes confidence and I think he’s more confident with every rep that he takes, with every path, with every course that he takes at running back, with his protections, with his routes," he said. "Now it’s just natural to him. He can be a runner and he’s very gifted in that regard as far as finding holes and running through people."

Gruden also observed that Kelley looks "a little trimmer" than he did in 2016. So, that means he's losing some weight on top of adding to his skillset, which is a terrific combination.

Well, not if you're one of the defenders who'll be meeting him in the hole on Sundays this fall, that is.

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