All offseason, the Redskins coaches and front office expressed their confidence in running back Matt Jones. In just his second season out of Florida, Jones was installed as the 'Skins No.1 RB, taking over from fan favorite Alfred Morris.
The results were mixed. In seven games, Jones showed both why the coaches were so excited by his potential, and why some fans were concerned if he was ready for the top spot. Jones twice broke the 100-yard mark, including a career high 135 yards in a win over the Eagles. But Week 7, Jones' old fumbling habit popped back up, and a goal-line fumble proved particularly costly against the Lions.
Following the Week 7 bout with fumbles in Detroit, Jones injured his knee, and didn't play Week 8 against the Bengals in London. Robert Kelley took the starter's share of carries againat Cincinnati, and it appears, will keep that job.
"Right now I think it’s going through Robert Kelley as I stand up here right now," Washington coach Jay Gruden said when asked about the team's starting running back.
Gruden made sure to clarify that things can change on the RB depth chart, and could change soon.
"That could change come Thursday or Friday, but Matt [Jones] will get his touches and earn his way back into the role that we think he should be in," the coach said.
For the season, Jones has run for 460 yards and three touchdowns, but he also has three fumbles. He's gaining an average of 4.6 yards-per-carry, up significantly from the 3.4 YPC he averaged as a rookie.
Kelley has had significantly less carries than Jones, 38 compared to 99, but has amassed 190 yards with one TD while averaging 5 YPC.
Jones has a clear advantage over Kelley in catching balls out of the backfield, though Kelley seems to avoid negative plays better than Jones. Don't forget Chris Thompson, a highly capable third down back, either.
"I’ve said it all along, we’ve got three, four good backs – four good backs now that Mack [Brown] is up," Gruden said. "I’m not going to project who’s going to get the bulk of the load."
The coach did allow he was pleased with Kelley's effort against the Bengals. The undrafted rookie out of Tulane ran the ball 21 times for 87 yards, scoring a touchdown, and proved himself capable of the workload.
"I think he played good, I really do," Gruden said of Kelley.
For now, Kelley played good enough to hold on as the Redskins starting runner. But as Gruden made clear, things can change. Jones was back on the practice field Monday and looked to have no restrictions, and it's a safe bet to expect competition to remain in the backfield.
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