- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 4, 2017

ASHBURN — His teammates still call him “Fat Rob” but Rob Kelley has gotten leaner since he rose to the Redskins’ starting running back role last season.

By cleaning up his diet, Kelley said he has built muscle and lost body fat since last season. He looks stronger and noticeably trimmer. Now that he has established himself, the pressure to make big plays in practice is lifted and Kelley can focus on developing as a pro.

“This year it’s more like just elevating the game,” Kelley said Wednesday after a Redskins organized team activities session. “Working on small things in the gamebook to bring to the next level, to be one of those top guys that’s working on different aspects.

“Catching the ball, blocking, working on different cuts and stuff like that [other] than just ‘I gotta break a big run’ and all this type of stuff.”

Kelley rushed for 704 yards and six touchdowns last season, when he started nine games. He is the Redskins’ incumbent starting running back and has practiced that way so far in OTAs, though fourth-round draft pick Samaje Perine has the potential to move into a starting role in time.

Kelley has a good attitude about competition, and he is not necessarily opposed to splitting carries.

“A lot of our stuff is off play action, so I think in this offense you have to run the ball full-speed and get full-speed carries,” Kelley said. “So, I mean, if you can’t go full-speed every play you have to get someone else in there to do it for you.

“I think it’s good to have somebody coming in and the offense won’t drop off a step.”

Kelley teased Perine about needing to catch the ball more and said that the running backs room is comfortable with competition. Kelley said he’ll tell Perine, Chris Thompson or Mack Brown what they can do better and that they’ll do the same for him.

Kelley is no stranger to fighting for his touches, anyway.

“I told him today, I joked around and said, ‘Last year at this time you were the ninth-string running back for God’s sakes’,” coach Jay Gruden said. “And now he’s the guy. So it’s exciting to see how far he’s come in a short period of time.

“With that experience comes confidence and I think he’s more confident with every rep that he takes, with every path, with every course that he takes at running back, with his protections, with his routes.”

Gruden has jokingly defended Kelley by saying that ‘Fat Rob‘ was only ever a nickname, but he did say Wednesday that he was glad to see the 24-year-old looking fit.

Running backs have short careers, so Kelley is wise to pay attention to his body even when he may be young enough to get by without doing so.

Other than fitness, Kelley said his trust in the Redskins offensive line has improved over time. He said that should help him avoid negative plays this season.

“I think in this offense if you stay true to your reads you’ll at least get three, four yards,” Kelley said.

Kelley said he would love to have fellow running back Matt Jones in the building and called it “more of a business thing” that was keeping Jones away.

“I’ll leave that to the guys upstairs,” Kelley said.

Jones, who is not attending the voluntary workouts, is the odd man out, seemingly behind Kelley, Perine, third-down back Thompson and Brown, who also came back to Redskins Park in great shape this offseason. Keith Marshall is also on the Redskins roster at running back.

Washington could make space for four running backs on the roster, but the reality is that, even without counting Jones, one of those players probably won’t make the 53-man roster. The competition, however, has remained friendly.

“I think it’s best for everybody to have some type of competition going on. Brings the best out of all of us,” Kelley said.

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