ASHBURN — Rob Kelley lay on the ground briefly after taking a hit during a kickoff in the Redskins’ 29-17 preseason loss Friday to the Denver Broncos, before popping back up and grabbing his neck.
“I’m good,” the 25-year-old running back said after the game. “I was just trying to match the other person’s intensity. He had a little more aggression than I did, I guess.”
With Peterson’s arrival, Kelley is in a delicate position — juggling his admiration for the former league MVP while also trying to hold on to the starting job in the backfield behind quarterback Alex Smith.
The Redskins aren’t saying if Peterson, who had 11 carries for 56 yards against Denver, is the starter moving forward. Gruden said Sunday he wanted to see how Peterson ran behind the first-team offensive line.
If Kelley has lost his starting role, that would be the latest swing in an eventful offseason for the running back.
Kelley, who signaled his hopes for a fresh start this season by cutting off his trademark dreadlocks, entered the offseason knowing he would have to fight for a roster spot after the Redskins drafted Derrius Guice. But Kelley had a strong training camp in Richmond, and at one point, Gruden seemed to indicate he was a lock to make the 53-man roster. He took over as the starter, too, after Guice went down with a season-ending torn ACL.
Kelley, though, hasn’t wowed in the preseason. Peterson looked more explosive in one game than Kelley did in three. Through three preseason games, Kelley has run for just 42 yards on 19 carries — an underwhelming 2.2 yards per attempt.
Kelley now may be in danger of not making the team.
The Redskins have Samaje Perine (ankle) returning soon and Gruden has said it’s important to keep someone on the roster who can back up Chris Thompson as the team’s third-down back — which would indicate a spot for Kapri Bibbs or the injured Byron Marshall.
Kelley’s spot could come down to numbers and how many backs the Redskins plan to keep.
“We are still evaluating that group every day,” Gruden said. “Samaje got some work in today a little bit, and Kapri has done a nice job, Byron has been hurt a little bit, but we’ll get a good look at all these guys.”
“Every day I come in, I’m going to work,” Kelley said. “And the best person is going to play. That’s how it roll. But if it does work in his favor, at the end of the day, I have to take something from the situation.”
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