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Cooley on reduced role: 'I'm handling it just fine'

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Cooley on reduced role: 'I'm handling it just fine'

Since returning to the Redskins last month, Chris Cooley hasn't played a major role in the team's game plan. In fact, the veteran tight end has only been on the field for 29 of 140 snaps – or about 21-percent of the plays.

It's been a major adjustment for one of the franchise's most respected figures, but he's coping with the role reduction "just fine", he said this week.

"I'm not going to get frustrated," Cooley said. "It's about everyone doing what they have to do."

And for Cooley, that means patiently waiting for the chance to reprove himself.

The 30-year-old was released in August after eight seasons in Washington but rejoined the team last month after No. 1 tight end Fred Davis was lost for the season to an Achilles' tendon injury.Since Davis' departure, Logan Paulsen has assumed the primary pass-catching responsibilities among the tight ends, hauling in nine of the 14 balls quarterback Robert Griffin III has thrown to him for a total of 112 yards.

Cooley's role, meantime, has fluctuated, making it difficult to figure out how Mike and Kyle Shanahan intend to use him the remainder of the season.

Against the Steelers, Cooley started and played 19 snaps on offense. Making his first appearance in an NFL game in 53 weeks, Cooley was targeted by Griffin once and did not catch the pass.

Against the Panthers, Cooley played only 10 snaps – nine fewer than Niles Paul and 69 fewer than Paulsen. Again, Cooley was targeted just once and finished without a reception.

"I'm extremely competitive, and I want to be on the field all the time and I have a ton of confidence in what I can do as a football player," Cooley said. "But I'm also a part of this team. To make a team as good as it can, you have to understand where you are and understand your role and contribute in whatever role you can help."

"And that," he added, "is what I'm doing. I'm handling it just fine."

Kyle Shanahan said Cooley has done what has been asked of him.

"Cooley has done a solid job," the offensive coordinator said. "We did a lot of [the same] stuff in training camp, but we've definitely added to it. That's why it was so important to bring a guy back like Cooley, who had some experience [with] what we were doing, but was also is smart enough and works at it hard enough to be able to catch on quickly. He's executed assignments and has done a solid job."

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Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2017 Redskins?

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2017 Redskins?

Jay Gruden set out to dispell the "doom and gloom" that has overtaken many Redskins fans this offseason when he talked to the media earlier this week. To what extent do you agree with the coach that the feeling should be one of optimism and excitement? 

As always, hit the poll and then either reply on Twitter to talk about your answer or come back here and hit the comments. 

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Jay Gruden loves Rob Kelley, but would also love drafting a 'special' RB

Jay Gruden loves Rob Kelley, but would also love drafting a 'special' RB

Redskins coach Jay Gruden has a very high opinion of running back Rob Kelley. He surprised many by making the 53-man roster as an undrafted rookie last year and when starter Matt Jones faltered, Kelley took over as the starter for the last nine games.

“Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley,” Gruden told reporters earlier this week at the NFL meetings in Phoenix.

“I thought he played great. You throw a rookie free agent into the fire like that and see him play and compete. Not one time did I feel like it was too big for him. Not once. That’s a hell of a thing to say for a kid out of Tulane who only had a couple of carries his senior year. He came right in, he competes on every play.”

Actually, Kelley had 65 carries as a senior at Tulane, for 232 yards and one touchdown.

But Gruden’s overall point about Kelley being a little-used back in college. In four years with the Green Wave he never had as many as 100 carries in a single season.

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Kelley got 168 carries in the NFL last year, gaining 704 yards. He scored six touchdowns, the same number that he scored in 49 games at Tulane.

Gruden was not done singing Kelley’s praises.

“He had some of the greatest two-yard runs I’ve seen,” the coach continued.

“He gets back to the line of scrimmage, he keeps his feet moving, he protects the ball. He’s going to get better in pass protection. Catching the ball, he did a nice job. He dropped a couple here and there but for the most part he catches the ball. I really think the vision he has he’ll be more patient as a runner this year. I think he’s going to be a good back, I really do.

“A lot of people think we need a great running back. I think Rob is a great running back, I really do.”

While that certainly is a ringing endorsement, Gruden wouldn’t shy away upgrading the position in the draft.

“There are some special players in this draft, if they’re available they’d be hard to pass up, quite frankly,” Gruden said moments after lauding Kelley.

MORE REDSKINS: JAY GRUDEN BULLISH ON 2017 REDSKINS

Two of the running back considered “special” who may be available when the Redskins make their pick in the first round are Dalvin Cook of Florida State and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford. In a separate interview with JP Finlay of CSN, Gruden talked about those two backs.

 “That’s the thing about those two guys, they can move around,” said Gruden. “They’re not just lining up in the I formation running the power play. They can line up outside at different spots, play receiver, catch the ball out of the backfield and they can also run it between the tackles. They’re not just one dimensional players, they’re very exciting.”

So to sum up the coach’s thought process here, Gruden thinks that Kelley is a “great” running back but the team would find it tough to pass on “special” and “exciting” alternatives. It doesn’t sound to me like Kelley should get too comfortable with the idea of being the lead dog at running back. And those Redskins fans who have earmarked that first-round draft pick for defense may end up being very disappointed.   

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.