After going relatively unused in the rushing department in the first three weeks of the season, third-year back Roy Helu Jr. got a chance to put his talents on display in the second half of Washington’s win over Oakland two weeks ago when starter Alfred Morris left the game with bruised ribs.
Helu rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in the final quarter-and-a-half of action. He also had two catches for 43 yards. Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said he expected that type of well-rounded production out of Helu, who started five games as a rookie but missed most of last season with injury. The coach would like to get Helu more involved in Washington’s offense, but added that doing so is easier said than done.
The coordinator still regards Morris as the team’s best option at running back and views him as a workhorse back, who gets better with the more carries he gets. But Morris’ own opportunities have been limited as well because of the Redskins’ inability to consistently extend drives. Washington has often fallen behind early because of struggles on third down, and then the team has to abandon the run.
Shanahan believes that he first must get Morris going consistently, and then that will lead to more opportunities for Helu. That’s because extended drives will allow the Redskins to run more offensive plays, and thus get deeper into their playbook, where Helu’s chances increase.
”Yeah, I’d like to get Helu out there more,” Kyle Shanahan said this week. “It’s always a hard thing when you’ve got two guys you believe in and with the success Alf’s had last year and how much we do believe in Alf, so we don’t like to just keep rotating those guys all the time. I’d like to get Helu in there more. I’d like to get him more opportunities. You don’t ever want to do that at the expense of another one of your good players, but the more plays you get, the more opportunities you get.”
Helu says that he understands that he has no control over how many or few plays he gets. His goal is simply to remain ready so whenever his number is called, he makes the most of those opportunities.
That’s exactly what Shanahan wants to hear.
“You never know what week it will be,” the coordinator said. “Just because a guy doesn’t do much one week doesn’t mean we’re down on him, it just worked out a different way. When his time comes, we can never predict it as coaches, but you hope he’s ready for it. He got that opportunity versus Oakland and I thought he was one of the main reasons we were able to win the game.”