Even though “Fat Rob” was just a nickname given to Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley during his time at Tulane, the 24-year-old has altered his body some as he enters his second NFL season.
Listed at 228 pounds last year, Kelley has added muscle to his young frame is now five pounds heavier at 233 pounds as he hopes to be better prepared to be a lead running back for an entire 16-game schedule.
Kelley, of course, entered offseason workouts last year just hungry to prove he could claim either an active roster spot or even one of the 10 practice squad spots. He was undrafted out of Tulane following a career in which he only rushed for 1,295 yards on 50 career starts.
Kelley not only earned a spot on the active roster following a strong preseason performance, he would eventually work his way up the depth chart and was the Redskins’ starting running back for the final nine games of the season.
“I think last year I was, like you said, more focused on trying to get on the team, trying to impress coaches,” Kelley told ESPN 980 last week. “I think this year is more about like, what I can do to bring the game to the next level. So I’m not really stressed on ‘I don’t know if I’m going to be here, I don’t know if I’m going to do this.’ It’s more like, ‘I’m going to try to master the wide zone this year, I’m going to try to work more on the option route,’ something like that. So I think it’s just more narrowed down than last year was just wide, just trying to make the team.”
In his debut season for Washington, Kelley ran for 704 yards and six touchdowns on 168 carries. While he had a breakout performance against the Green Bay Packers in November, recording 137 rushing yards and three touchdowns, his carries dipped some late in the season. Over the final three games, Kelley recorded just 40 rushes.
But he has been assured this season that the Redskins will run the ball more. That was one of the reasons he changed up his body composition in the offseason.
“Running backs’ careers are already tough to carry on for a long period of time as it is, but if you’re overweight or out of shape, you have no chance,” said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. “He’s getting his body in shape, he works hard. He’s a very strong, physical runner. The way he runs, he better be in shape. He better be strong, work in the weight room, if he wants to maintain the skillset that he has. And he has. He’s done a good job.”
Kelley doesn’t want to have rushing as his main strength, though, entering a 2017 campaign in which he is expected to be a central figure on a dynamic offense.
He’s been working hard to improve on his pass blocking, which is something running backs coach Randy Jordan concentrates on with this running backs during individual drills at practices, and to become a better pass catching threat. He took up boxing in the offseason to help improve his hand-eye coordinator and the speed of his hands.
Last season, Kelley tallied just 12 catches for 82 yards.
“I feel like boxing helps you work on your hands, work on your feet, also work mentally, because when you get tired, it’s a combination of all types of stuff so they’re just putting you on a different type of pressure,” Kelley said. “…I mean, everybody can run the ball, but what can you do besides that? That’s my goal this year, just try to…catch more and protect the quarterback better.”