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Need to Know: How good can Redskins RB Rob Kelley be if he starts 16 games?

Need to Know: How good can Redskins RB Rob Kelley be if he starts 16 games?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 12, 15 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.


The Redskins last played a game 192 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 60 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 5
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 29
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 52

How good can Rob Kelley be if he starts 16 games?

Running back Rob Kelley was one of the Redskins’ pleasant surprises on 2016. He was brought in as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane and at one point he was, per Jay Gruden, “the ninth-string running back.” He fought his way up the depth chart and he made the 53-man roster. When starter Matt Jones faltered in midseason, Kelley got the nod.

As a starter, his production was good, if not particularly impressive. He rushed for 601 yards on 151 attempts (4.0 yards per carry) with six touchdowns.

Again, that’s fine but not Pro Bowl caliber. However, some advanced statistics suggest that a Rob Kelley who starts from Week 1 on could be a very, very good runner.

Looking at Football Outsider’s evaluations of running backs in 2016, Kelley was 17th in their DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement), which measures how much better a running performs compared to a replacement level back or your basic rock-bottom player. As the name says, the results are adjusted to the strength of the defenses the running back faced. If you want more details on the metric, go to the FO site.

I looked at the rankings and it struck me that most of the backs ahead of Kelley were starters for the entire season. I wondered if Kelley would have ranked higher if he had done what he did for 16 games as a starter.

I reached out to Mike Tanier, who is one of the numbers crunchers at Football Outsiders, to find out. He said that as a runner, a Rob Kelley who started 16 games could compare favorably to one of the best running backs in the NFL.

“It's not crazy to say that over 16 games Kelley might have been up next to [Cardinals RB] David Johnson in the FO ratings,” said Tanier. “Johnson had similar DVOA but many more carries.”

For the entire season, counting the seven games before Kelley was a starter, the Redskins rookie had 168 rushing attempts compared to 293 for Johnson, who was ninth in running back DYAR.

“DYAR was built to reward players who are ‘pretty good’ over lots and lots of carries or passes, Tanier explained. “If you base your rating system on being above some kind of average, players like Kelley can actually get jobbed by the system.”

Tanier was quick to point out that Kelley could be on the same level as Johnson, who was a first-team All-Pro for the Cardinals as a second-year player in 2016, only as a runner. The Cardinals’ running back also has great value as a receiver (in 2016, 80 receptions for 879 yards), an ability that Kelley (12 rec., 82 yds.) has not yet displayed.

But if the Redskins can get something close to Johnson’s 2016 rushing production (293 attempts, 1239 yards, 16 TD) out of Kelley they would be quite happy.

Again, this isn’t to say that Kelly might be the equal of Johnson. The receiving yards are a big part of the picture. Still, it will be very interesting to see what Kelley can do if he starts 16 games.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

USA TODAY Sports/@TerrellePryor

Zach Brown says Redskins defense will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor during joint practices

Terrelle Pryor made a number of highlight reel catches last year during training camp, and it appears the Redskins defense didn't like it. 

Washington's marquee free agent signing last season, Pryor came into Richmond with sky-high expectations. Throughout the training sessions last August, Pryor put on one-handed displays at the Jugs machine and often made big catches in team drills. It's also important to remember there was never any live tackling during these drills, leaving defenders at a distinct disadvantage. 

Zach Brown remembers the scene quite well, and thinks it will look very different this summer when Pryor comes to Richmond as a member of the New York Jets. 

"That’s going to be something right there. The boys are gonna have it out for him. We can put hands on him now," Brown said on Inside the Locker Room on the Team 980 (full audio here).

Brown explained that Redskins coach Jay Gruden would not allow the defense to hit Pryor last year, even when the wideout did some showboating. 

"Jay ain't here to protect you anymore," Brown said.

The Redskins linebacker explained that he tried to explain to Pryor that the one-handed catches from training camp would not translate in the NFC East, where players get hit hard. It doesn't seem like Pryor listened, as he finished the season with only 240 receiving yards on 20 catches in nine games. 

"The boys were already hot for what he was doing last year," Brown said. He added, "Try to one-hand something while you’re with the Jets, you’re gonna catch a forearm."

One incident that supports Brown's comments came when Bashaud Breeland got thrown off the practice field last training camp. Breeland got mad that he wasn't allowed to get physical with Pryor at the line of scrimmage, and the scene blew up. Breeland eventually got sent off the field after arguing with coaches. 

The Jets visit the Redskins for three days of practices beginning August 12th. The two teams then square off in the second preseason game on August 16th. 

Brown will get his chance at Pryor, assuming the wideout plays. Pryor finished the 2018 season on the injured reserve, but is expected to be fine once training camp begins in New York. 



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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

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Need to Know: The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 17, 39 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The best Redskins players 25 or younger

Here is a look at the best Redskins players who have played at least one season and will be 25 or younger as of Week 1 this year. 

WR Jamison Crowder, 25 as of Week 1—Crowder hit the ground running in his first year, with 59 receptions, a team rookie record, and gaining 604 yards. He has been very dependable in his three years, averaging 64 catches, 747 yards, and four receiving touchdowns per year. 

OLB Preston Smith, 25—Since he came into the league, no player but Smith has at least 20.5 sacks, three or more interceptions, and four or more forced fumbles. His sack numbers tend to be up and down from week to week, but Jay Gruden has said more than once that Smith is very consistent in getting pressure on the quarterback even if he doesn’t always get home for the sack. 

DL Matt Ioannidis, 24—A year ago it was thought that he would face an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster. Now goes into the season as a starter and key contributor. The 2016 fifth-round pick got much stronger between his first and second seasons and he took well to the coaching of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Only a broken hand that cost him two games and had him playing with an awkward cast for a few more kept him from threatening to make double-digit sacks. 

DL Jonathan Allen, 23—The Redskins were just starting to get a hint of what Allen could do early in the season. Pro Football Focus credited him with a total of three sacks in the Redskins third and fourth games. But in their fifth game, he suffered a foot injury that ended his season. Allen was a full go for the offseason program and there is no reason to think that he won’t pick back up right where he left off. 

S Montae Nicholson, 22—Like Allen, Nicholson’s rookie season was shortened due to injuries. He took advantage of the absence of anticipated starter Su’a Cravens and made an impact from the beginning. While the 2017 fourth-round pick and free-agent pickup D.J. Swearinger were in the lineup the decade-long struggles the Redskins have had at the safety position were suddenly gone. 

Best of the rest: WR Josh Doctson (25), C Chase Roullier (25)

It should be noted that DL Daron Payne turned 21 in May and RB Derrius Guice will the 21 later this month so they could be joining this list soon. Assuming those two start, the Redskins will have nine quality starters aged 25 or younger this year. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder was born on this date in 1993. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 39
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 53
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 76

The Redskins last played a game 166 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 84 days. 

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