As he looked back at his first NFL start — which also involved the most extensive workload he had received since high school — Rob Kelley saw some positives, and lots of room for growth.
He finished Washington’s Week 8 matchup with Cincinnati with 21 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. But as Kelley puts it, “I was leaving a lot of yards out there on the field.”
The first half of the game best demonstrated that. Kelley scored his first rushing touchdown as a pro. And he made quick decisions rather than running with hesitation, one of the problems that has hampered fellow running back Matt Jones. But Kelley needed more balance.
“Early in the game, you could see I was just trying to get downhill as fast as possible,” Kelley reflected on Wednesday. During that first half of the Bengals game, he managed just 29 yards on 10 carries.
At halftime, Kelley’s coaches and teammates told him he needed to run with a little more patience. He came back in the second half aiming to give holes half a beat longer to develop, and the alteration helped. Kelley carried the ball 11 times for 58 yards.
Now in line to make his second start, Kelley hopes to display growth. He spent the bye week studying the video of the Bengals game, and continues to work to refine his technique during this week’s practices.
“I think that’s the first time I put a complete game together,” Kelley said. “But as far as looking at film, I saw I need to work on being patient and my landmarks and reads and stuff like that. So, it was a good first step in the right direction, but there’s a lot more that I can do out there.”
The 21-carry day in London was the heaviest workload that Kelley has received in years. While splitting time between fullback and tailback during his three seasons at Tulane, Kelley never received more than 14 carries in a game. During the regular season, Kelley hadn’t received more than five carries in a game as the backup to Jones.
Kelley and his coaches always study his carries — even in limited action — but the 21-carry outing gave him more learning opportunities. “It was a good piece of work that I can learn from,” he said. And now, as a result, on Sunday, Kelley hopes to run with the balance needed to provide a greater impact for the Redskins.
“Sometimes it’s just instincts, and you’ll do it and not even feel like you were in your body or mind. It just does it for you,” Kelley said. “But it’s just part of being a running back in this league. Sometimes things work out for you, and sometimes they don’t go your way. You just keep hitting away at it.”
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