Roy Helu appears to be the Redskins starting Running Back for the remainder of the season. But the question remains of whether or not he’s ready just yet. Given the enormous amount of injuries past running backs have incurred and an offensive line that is questionable at best, is it the right time to use him as an every-down back?
It seems like only yesterday when head coach Mike Shanahan remarked “I like Helu. He’s doing some great things, I don’t want to put too much pressure on him too early. He’s not ready for that. But he’s gaining experience, and I like what I see.”
Nonetheless, the Redskins don’t have many options at this time with only 3 running backs on their active roster. Since Tim Hightower’s season ending injury in week 6 Ryan Torain has started 3 of the 5 games and Helu has started 2.
Despite Shanahan’s previous valuation of the rookie, he must have thought he was ready (or ran out of options) because on November 27 Helu stepped out onto the field as the Redskins starter. I don’t think anyone saw it as an end to the running back carousel, but more as an audition.
Mike Shanahan confirmed that he seems to have gotten the part.
Both players have had good and bad games. Still, one must remember that Torain’s big game in St. Louis where he ran for 135 yards and one touchdown was against the Rams, the worst rushing defense in the NFL.* Still an accomplishment, but not a very strong indicator.
The Seahawks rushing defense, while ranking only 11th, have only allowed 2 players to rush for over 100 yards. Roy Helu is one of them. He carried the ball for 23 plays, 108 yards, and one touchdown which required him to hurdle over a defender before breaking a tackle to get into the end zone.
Helu’s other start on week 9 against the 49ers showed his versatility as he managed 14 receptions, breaking the Redskins all-time record.
Torain is good, Helu is better at this moment.
It will be a long, long, time before we will begin to see the same grace, skill and strength that past running backs such as John Riggins and Clinton Portis brought to the team but the skins seem to be headed in the right direction. They have a young rookie with a promising future and a fantastic attitude working with a head coach who has proven invaluable in developing running backs in Denver.
If Helu can stay healthy, and Shanahan can stay focused on the big picture, the offense should develop into a force to be reckoned with.
So for now it’s out with the old, in with Helu.