Rob Kelley didn't tear apart the record books in the Redskins' 27-27 tie against the Bengals, but considering it was his first-career NFL start, the undrafted free agent from Tulane did just fine.
With matt Jones on the bench with an injury, Kelley toted the rock 21 times for 87 yards, and scored his first NFL rushing touchdown as well.
While Kelley averaged 4.1 yards per carry, he hit holes with vigor, and made violent cuts. He ran with purpose.
Head coach Jay Gruden was more than just a bit impressed. "He ran physical and he ran hard. I think he had 21 carries for 85 yards, or something like that, 87 yards," Gruden told reporters on a conference call Monday afternoon. "That’s a pretty darn good first day for the guy as far as being a lead-down back."
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"I thought ran hard. He ran physical and made some nice runs. I think he pre-determined a couple cuts here and there, maybe didn’t let the play develop a little bit like we would like, but I think for the most part I was happy the way he ran."
But with the Redskins headed into a bye week, it's not a given that Kelley returns to the starting position when the team returns in Week 10 against the Vikings. That all depends on the status of Jones.
"I like what I saw out of Robert, but it's not out of possibility that Matt could come back and earn some of those reps back. We’ll have to wait and see how he does when we return from the bye," Gruden said when discussing the second-year Florida back, who injured his knee in Week 7. He’s going to get treatment these next four or five days and then when we come back to practice, he’ll practice, hopefully with the team. Then we’ll make that determination of how good he’s doing."
Fumble aside, Jones did have two very solid performances this season.
Even with Kelley's effort in Week 8, neither man — nor change of pace back Chris Thompson — has cemented themselves as a true lead back.
"I think these guys have all proven that they can carry the ball. To say that one is so much better than the others – if we had a clear-cut, No. 1 guy, it would be different," Gruden stated. "But we have a couple guys that are worthy of getting the ball. I think if Mack Brown continues to keep working in practice, I might try to get him some carries. I think we have four really good backs. It’s just a matter of you only have one ball."
Despite all the attention the Redskins' backfield depth chart has garnered, the team hasn't struggled as much as people may think. The Redskins rank No. 7 in terms of yards per carry (4.1) and No. 14 in yards per game (111.5). The fumbles (7) need to come down, but Gruden likes what has has to work with.