There's a lot of young talent on the Washington Redskins' practice fields right now, with the team going through its second week of OTAs.
Two of those talented athletes are running back Rob Kelley and linebacker Preston Smith, both of whom are determined to have great sophomore seasons.
Sporting News' NFL writer Vinnie Iyer scoured the NFL for players he thinks will have impactful second seasons for their respective teams, both on offense and defense, and in his search, he happened to make two stops at Redskins Park,finding two strong candidates in Jones and Smith.
Iyer had this to say about Jones:
"Alfred Morris is gone, and Washington wants to give this hammer of a back (6-2, 231 pounds) a regular role in smashing mouths," Iyer said. "Jones had his moments as a rookie but was held back from doing more than spelling Morris because of his issues with pass protection and ball security. The Redskins are hopeful he's corrected those typical rookie mistakes and can step in without limitations. His frame gives them confidence he can handle a starter's workload."
Jones had his fair share of ups and downs in his rookie season for sure, but there's no denying that fact that he can be a major contributor in Washington's offense this coming season. Last season, Jones was a threat both in the running game (144 rushes for 490 yards and three touchdowns) and in the passing game (19 catches for 304 yards and one touchdown). That kind of production has head coach Jay Gruden excited about what Jones could potentially do in Year Two.
"We have every intention of Matt being number one, and we're excited about it," Gruden said. "You know, he's a big guy and I think he can handle it."
Iyer continued on and talked about Smith:
"Smith is a special talent as a linebacker/end hybrid," Iyer said. "At 6-5, 271 pounds, he has a great combination of size and explosiveness. While adjusting to NFL speed and Washington's scheme last season, he still stuffed the stat sheet in a situational role with eight sacks, four passes defended and three forced fumbles. He should carry over from his final month and big game vs. Green Bay in the playoffs to be a force this season."
What will make Smith even more explosive this season is his conditioning. Smith says he's focused more on strengthening his core, which in turn will help him stay fresher out there on the field.
"I feel I am just going to play hard and hopefully things fall into place and make sure I am in position to make plays," Smith said. "I am going to have a lot more opportunities to make plays."