After keeping rookie running back Roy Helu on a short leash for the last six weeks, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan finally turned the Nebraska product loose against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday.
Helu, whom Washington drafted in the fourth round of last April’s draft, responded by rushing for a career-high 108 yards on 23 carries (4.7 ypc average) and a touchdown.
“I thought he was ready,” Shanahan said, explaining why he started Helu after using him as a backup for five of the last six games. “He was ready to play a full game, and protection against a good defensive team. He should get the chance to get the load put on him. I thought he had played enough and was comfortable enough to go out there and see what he could do. … He got his opportunity and he ran extremely hard.”
Helu’s biggest run of the game came on third-and-3 from the Seattle 28-yard line with 9:57 left in the game. With Rex Grossman lined up in the shotgun, Helu took the handoff and cut to his left. He hurdled Seahawks defensive back Roy Lewis, picked up the first down, broke a tackle and raced the rest of the way to the end zone.
“]He] was awesome today,” Grossman said of Helu. “He had some hard runs. I don’t know if they’re on the highlight reel, but he kept us in second-and-four and we were able to pick up the first down. And the touchdown run, that’s one of the most impressive runs I’ve ever seen. To hurdle and still keep moving, that was impressive.”
Left tackle Trent Williams said what made Helu’s first career touchdown even more impressive was that the back created something out of nothing.
“On that play, he didn’t get no blocking,” Williams chuckled. “The guy he hurdled, I was supposed to get him, but I got chipped by [tight end] Fred [Davis] and [Helu] jumped smooth over him and he’s got the speed to take it to the house.”
Known for his humility, Helu – who had the team’s second 100-yard rushing game of the season -- took little credit for his performance.
“It was an honor to go in there and get the start, and to play behind our offensive line … who all did great,” Helu said. “Our tight ends did great, and so did our receivers down the field. So I was just a product of them blocking well. Hopefully I did my best. I know I missed some things.”