So far, rookie running back Robert Kelley hasn't had too many runs go backwards as he continues to adjust as the team's lead back. The No. 3 spot, meanwhile, will be determined "week-to-week."
Not only has Robert Kelley put the Redskins' running game in the right direction the past two weeks, the rookie out of Tulane is almost always going forward when his number has been called.
In his two starts so far -- against strong run defenses in the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings -- Kelley has had just one carry go for negative yardage.
"He lost a yard and that was… it should have been a five-yard loss and he got a minus-one," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week. That carry was against the Vikings when two different defensive linemen burst through the line to wrap up Kelley. "There were other plays where it looked like there was nothing there and all of the sudden, second and seven. And those are huge. You stay on track as a play caller and it makes the game flow a lot smoother when you're in second and seven, second and six, second and five, and that's a great tribute to him."
Kelley believes his ability to avoid negative runs is a byproduct of his decisiveness. Instead of waiting for his shot at line of scrimmage, Kelley finds his hole and immediately tries to get upfield.
"That's how I run the ball," Kelley said. "I'm not one of the guys who sits back all day and just try to dance around it. I try to get north and south as much as possible."
In two games as Washington's starting running back, Kelley has carried the ball 43 times for 184 yards and a touchdown. While Kelley gets off to decent starts early in games, he really starts to excel as time wears on in games.
He has 121 second half rushing yards in the last two weeks.
"Yeah I think I get better as the game goes on," Kelley said on Sunday. "You've got to feel stuff out, know how it's coming, if they're hitting gaps or they're not, they hitting hard or they not? You gotta figure stuff out...I feel like the Vikings have a real good defense and they tried to hit me real hard and I tried to respond back to 'em."
Kelley will only benefit from added time on the field and more film added to his collection. He tried to do a little less in terms of cut backs, which is something he saw too frequently on tape from the Bengals game.
"I [tried] to take that Cincinnati game and use it as a tool to help me better my game," Kelley said. "I had a good game in Cincinnati, but it wasn't what I wanted. I left a few yards out there. I tried to maximize those yards today and I think I did a really good job of doing that."
While Kelley appears entrenched as the team's starting running back, the former No. 1 – Matt Jones – was inactive last Sunday based on special teams participation.
Gruden likes for the team's No. 3 running back to play teams, and Mack Brown fills that role nicely. Jones, meanwhile, hasn't appeared on special teams since Week 14 of the 2015 season.
"Mack Brown did a nice job on special teams and he was our third back [against Minnesota] because of that," Gruden said. "Moving forward, we'll just have to make that determination every week. You know, we're not giving up on Matt. He's a part of this football team, without a doubt, but on game day when you can only dress three running backs – we only do dress three running backs – the third one we would like to have some impact on special teams if we can. That's not always going to be the case, week-to-week basis. Sometimes we may not need our third running back to be on special teams, we can get Matt up, so we just have to keep working with those guys. They're both young football players, both very talented, and we like what we see in both of them but we have to make a decision every week and that will be week-to-week."