Heading into the season, Robert Kelley was entrenched as the starter at the running back position for the Redskins. Injuries, however, have played a role in Kelley’s slow start to 2017. Now finally healthy, Kelley needs to reassert himself as Washington’s No. 1 back.
The last time the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys at home was Week 17 of 2012. Powered by now current Cowboys running back Alfred Morris’ 200 yards on the ground and three touchdowns, the Redskins won the NFC East championship. Now, it’s ancient history. If the Redskins are to pick up their fourth win of the season, I believe they’ll need another big day on the ground. This time from Robert Kelley.
Kelley has yet to make much of an impact within the Redskins offense in 2017. In two games against the Eagles, Kelley produced 46 yards on 17 carries. Injuries limited his effectiveness in Weeks 2 and 4. Kelley also missed the game against the Raiders with a rib injury. In his first career start against the Cowboys, Kelley carried the ball 14 times for 37 yards.
In 2016, Dallas actually led the league in rush defense and the Eagles currently lead the league in that department, so it’s understandable why Kelley struggled against those defenses. Kelley is a tough runner. The first defender rarely gets him down, as he has the uncanny ability to turn a loss into a five-yard gain. I’ve always believed that Kelley is the type of back that needs at least 18-20 touches a game.
He’s been most successful when given the opportunity to actually be the workhorse for the Redskins offense. In his first three starts, Robert Kelley averaged 22 carries per game. He also increased his production in each game (87, 97, 137 yards), logging 4 touchdowns in that span.
Dallas has struggled defending the run this season. The Cowboys are 21st against the run, allowing 115.5 yards per game. In their last three contests, Rod Marineli’s defense is allowing 143.7 rushing yards. Dallas is also 24th in the NFL in yards per carry allowed with 4.6 yards. In their past three games, the Cowboys have allowed 5.5 yards per rushing attempt.
The Redskins offensive line has been battered with injuries, and although the Cowboys struggle stopping the run, they are tied for 6th in sacks with 21. Demarcus Lawrence is second in the NFL with 9.5 sacks. The weather might be a factor, and the game-plan should call for a lot of hand-offs from Kirk Cousins.
Chris Thompson will get his fair share of touches, and Samaje Perine could possibly factor into the equation. However, I think Kelley will re-emerge for the Redskins on offense. This is the week that Kelley could potentially touch the ball at least 20 times. So Robert Kelley, I challenge you to “Put up your Dukes”, earn your first 100-yard game of the season, and pound those Dallas Cowboys into submission.