Amidst an injured running back group, undrafted rookie Robert Kelley took advantage of playing on the first team against the Bill's Friday with a strong performance.
Due to a myriad of injuries, Robert Kelley got the starting nod for the Redskins' third preseason game on Friday, and the running back took full advantage of the opportunity, looking every bit the player that Washington needed the undrafted rookie from Tulane to be in relief.
With fellow running backs Matt Jones and Chris Thompson both unavailable due to injury, Kelley was given an increased opportunities to show what exactly he can do on the football field. He finished the game with 12 carries for 51 yards.
Through three preseason games, Kelley has run for 99 yards at an average of 4.5 yards per carry.
"Definitely felt like I got in a rhythm. I was able to read some good holes out there," Kelley said about his performance in Friday's game. "I think it was a good showing out there."
Another running back that is trying to find his place on the roster, Keith Marshall, was injured during the battle against the Bills, which in turn gave Kelley more carries to find his groove.
"(Kelley) ran hard," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "I thought he ran hard. Protected the football, had a couple of good blitz pickups that I saw. I'll have to make sure I look at the film and see how he did in protection overall. But for the most part I'm happy with the way he played. Still some decisions to be made, but I'm happy in the way these guys competed."
Making an impact in pass protection can be especially critical for a rookie like Kelley, who is trying to take advantage of every opportunity with all the question marks the Redskins have right now at the position.
Getting the notice and trust of the starters can only help that cause. Kelley accomplished that too.
"I thought he did a really good job running the football and also in pass protection, which is a very difficult part of playing the running back position," quarterback Kirk Cousins said.
From Kelley's perspective, getting to play with the first-team against the Bills was an experience that only made him play and look even better in addition to his own growth.
"I think I've played decent. The best I could say is a steady progression. Even if it's just one percent better, I think I got better," Kelley said. "It was easy to run the ball with the (first-team offensive line). Those guys are beasts out there. It felt good. It felt like I was better than I was."
While Kelley may be quick to share the credit with the players in front of him, his more than four-yards per carry and total performance did not go unnoticed. And the first-team players are more than willing to do what it takes to ensure he only improves.
"I think when you're a rookie and undrafted and you're in that position, what you need is belief. You need people around you who believe in you and have confidence in you because he does have the talent and he can run the football well," Cousins said. "You just have to continue encouraging him and I think he showed a lot of confidence tonight when he got going and he's a talented football player."