Over the past three weeks, as the Redskins offense seemed to grow more and more lifeless, many were wondering when rookie running back Roy Helu would get a chance to provide a spark. But since getting eight carries for 35 yards against the Rams in Week 4, he had just three rushing attempts for 5 yards and seven receptions for 37 yards. Mike Shanahan gave Helu his shot and started him against the 49ers today, and the Nebraska product was one of the few offensive bright spots in the Redskins 19-11 loss. He had 10 rushing attempts for 40 yards, a passable performance against a San Francisco defense that led the league in rushing defense by a wide margin. The running was not the highlight. Helu caught 14 passes for 105 yards. The number of receptions broke a team record formerly held by Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk. It was not a perfect outing. Late in the first half with Redskins trailing by just 6-0, he caught a screen pass and fumbled. The 49ers recovered at the Washington 30, and they cashed in immediately as Alex Smith threw to fullback Bruce Miller for a touchdown on the next play. Im going to have to look in film, but the ball came out, Helu said. "Im not sure where I got hit. Helu said he officially found out he would be starting on Saturday, but the decision did not surprise him. Through practice, you get a feel, he said. Shanahan decided it was time to see what Helu could do. Helu has got the speed to make some big plays, Shanahan said. I think you can see hes an all-around pretty good back. He made some plays. Shanahan said there wasnt necessarily a plan to pass the ball to Helu as much as the Redskins did. "Its a zone defensive team, he said. What you have to do is consistently throw the short passes. They played only a couple of plays in man-to-man coverage. They werent going to give us the chance to get the big play throughout the game. Probably the fewest plays theyve played in man coverage all year. Quarterback John Beck seemed surprised when he was told Helu had picked up that many receptions. There were some times where they forced us to check it down. Hes the check-down guy, he said. It wasnt in our game plan to try to get the ball to him that many times. Helu did not want to talk about the receptions record. I care more about my brothers on this team, he said. And theyre hurting because I cant make plays on the field. Helu was not the only Redskins rookie who got his first NFL start today. Receiver Roy Hankerson, a third-round draft pick, started at wide receiver. He caught four passes for 34 yards. And Maurice Hurt, a seventh-round pick, started at left guard. His play will have to be further evaluated, but he seemed to hold his own. After giving up 10 sacks against the Bills last week, the line yielded just one sack today.
Rookie Helu sets receptions record
November 6, 2011, 11:59 pm