With all of the talk about running backs lately, a name that few fans know despite going into his sixth NFL season is John Kelly. For the millions who tune into Thursday night’s Hall of Fame game between the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets, Kelly will have an opportunity to get on a few more radars.
Drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the same year that they extended running back Todd Gurley, Kelly is going to try and get on yet another 53-man roster.
A sixth round pick of the Rams in 2018 out of Tennessee, Kelly lasted two seasons on the team and was activated with a month to go in his rookie season. Kelly had 25 carries for70 yards in the last two games of the season but didn’t get any snaps in the playoffs. He didn’t get past final cuts in 2019 but did appear with the team for a few games in the regular season.
The Rams again waived Kelly in 2020 and he was assigned to the Browns practice squad, which is the only franchise he has known for the last three years.
Now on one of the most loaded rosters in a loaded AFC, Kelly is hoping to make the team despite playing in his six snaps over the last four years. He is competing with Demetric Felton, Jerome Ford, Nate McCrary, and Hassan Hall to be depth pieces behind Nick Chubb, but it’s an uphill battle that starts for the veteran on Thursday night.
When asked this week if the preseason matters, Kelly responded:
“You sh----n’ me?” he said when the idea was brought up to him. “You sh----n’ me? It matters if you’re playing, I’ll say that.”
Despite being drafted in 2018, Kelly is only officially in his second season because of NFL rules about accrued playing time. He still thinks he is one of the best running backs in the league.
“One thing about me is I always feel like I can compete at the highest level and I know my worth and I know that I can compete with any of those guys,” he said.
“Hell yeah, absolutely,” he said. “Every time I step out there I’m preparing like I’m going to be the starter. So wherever the team may have me at the moment, that’s fine, but I know it’s all about the work that I put in that should be able to ultimately dictate the position that I’ll be in.”
When asked about what he’s learned from different backs in the league, Kelly said that Gurley set the example for him from the beginning.
“TG showed me how to be a pro. TG definitely showed me how to be a pro, just taking care of his body, he’s a bigger back and he was able to do it for a long time with a huge workload. So just being able to take care of your body and just the ins and outs of that whole journey. Because our first year we ended up going to the Super Bowl and a lot of it was TG’s ability to make plays with the ball in his hands and him just being available.”
Kelly also mentioned learning routes from Cooper Kupp and how to pass rush from Aaron Donald. He said he called “first dibs” on the end zone on Thursday night and I know a lot of Rams fans will be hoping he gets it.