Things change quick in the NFL.
Less than a month ago, Matt Jones rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown in a win against the Eagles. The second-year runner looked well on his way to a strong season for Washington.
Then, following a bout with fumbleitis in Detroit and a knee injury that forced him out of action in London, Jones lost his job to undrafted rookie Robert Kelley. After two games with Kelley as the starter, the job looks like his to keep.
"He’s fun to watch, and he’s going to get better and better," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Kelley after the rookie ran for nearly100 yards in a win over Minnesota.
The coach is right - Kelley is fun to watch. The Tulane product has a knack for making the first tackler miss, a quick shift in his hips and, perhaps most importantly, has been secure with the ball on every one of his NFL carries.
"I thought he ran really, really well," Washington QB Kirk Cousins said of Kelley.
"I thought he did the same thing against the Bengals. He just picked up where he left off and was phenomenal all day. I was very pleased with the way he ran the football and I can’t say enough good things about him, his effort, the way he produced for us and his approach to the game."
HIgh praise from Cousins, yet deserved. In his last two games - both starts with Jones inactive — Kelley has run for 194 yards and more than 4 yards-per-carry. Most important for Kelley, he rarely loses yards. His run style and ability to make tacklers miss often nets the Washington offense at least a one or two-yard gain even when runs look stuffed from the snap.
"You try and minimize the negative runs. That’s something Coach Gruden talks about a lot to make sure that I get positive runs," Kelley said. "If I get just one yard, stay positive. You can’t go broke with a positive."
Kelley will continue to get the ball for Washington as long as he keeps his approach simple. Multiple times against the Vikings, Kelley broke 10+yard runs, and they all started with making a defender miss. For the season, Kelley averages 3.6 yards per carry after contact, an impressive total.
Leaving the field on Sunday, Kelley held a football under his arm (full video above).
He explained that he wanted to keep that ball for his collection, but he added that it would have been nice to get to 100 yards instead of finishing the game with 97.
"I feel good," Kelley said. "I got 97 yards. I don’t care as long as we got the win with it. I could have had 12 yards and it wouldn’t matter.”