The unexpected ascension of Robert Kelley has brought with it some unintended consequences, particularly for Redskins running back Matt Jones. Coming into the year, Jones was installed as the top runner in the Washington offense. By Week 10, Jones was a healthy scratch.
As Tony Romo eloquently stated in his press conference to support Cowboys rookie QB Dak Prescott, football is a meritocracy. And on merit, Kelley deserves the No. 1 RB role.
The interesting part for the Redskins, however, is the dominoes that fell once Kelley hit the starting lineup. Veteran Chris Thompson is secure in his role as kick returner and third down back, but Jay Gruden's team always dressed three running backs on game days.
Jones missed the Bengals game with a knee injury, but was held out last week against the Vikings despite being able to play. The coaches explained that Mack Brown plays special teams, and that's why he made more sense for the team than Jones. Heading into Sunday Night Football against the Packers, it sounds like the same scenario will unfold.
"Mack is getting a majority of the work on special teams," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said when asked if Jones could be active on Sunday.
Without playing specials, it's unlikely Jones makes the active roster against Green Bay. Gruden's comments on Thursday provided little reason to think anything different.
"His number will be called again. I just don’t know when that will be," Gruden said of Jones. "He just has got to continue to prepare and practice and when his time comes be ready for it and take advantage of it."
On the year, Jones has rushed for 460 yards and three touchdowns. The numbers are solid, though Jones did struggle with fumbles in a loss at Detroit.
More importantly, however, has been Kelley's knack for avoiding negative plays, an area Jones struggled at times. Consider these quotes from Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
"We’re not having a lot of negative plays," Gruden said. "Rob Kelley is doing a great job of getting positive yards, keeping us in good, solid down and distances."
And here is McVay, when asked about Kirk Cousins' success on play action passes: "The key is being able to be efficient in the run game. I thought Rob Kelley did a great job where you stay in those normal down-and-distances and that kind of opens up some of those run-actions, and that’s what we were able to do towards the end of the game."
Like Gruden said, Jones could certainly hit the Redskins active roster again this season. It's unlikely to be this weekend though.
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