In the coming weeks, Redskins reporter Tarik El-Bashir will examine five candidates to break out in 2014. We’ve already looked at tight end Jordan Reed, cornerback David Amerson and kicker Kai Forbath.
Today, we’re looking at running back Roy Helu Jr.
2013 stats: 274 yards rushing and four touchdowns, 31 receptions for 251 yards
Contract status: Signed through 2014
2013 in review: Finally healthy after missing all but three games in 2012 due to injury, Helu settled into the third down running back role behind workhorse Alfred Morris.
Helu’s output, though, varied significantly from game-to-game. Six times he combined for three or fewer carries andreceptions in a game. But there were also multiple contests where he left a much bigger mark, like his three touchdown effort against the Bears.
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The highlight of Helu’s season came in Oakland, where he stepped in for an ailing Morris. He gained 41 yards on 13 carries and caught two passes for 43 yards, including a highlight reel hurdle over a Raiders’ cornerback, to help the Redskins secure a come-from-behind 24-14 win.
Helu’s 31 receptions were the fourth highest total on the team.
2014 Outlook: By playing in 35-percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps for the second time in his first three seasons, Helu’s salary in 2014 will more than double to $1.39 million because of an escalator clause in his contract.
As a result, the Redskins will no doubt expect more production from the 25-year-old. For that to happen, though, two things will need to happen: Helu must prove to new head coach Jay Gruden that he’s deserving of additional responsibility and, if he does, Gruden must reciprocate by getting the quick and versatile back more involved in the offense.
The latter shouldn’t be an issue. As Gruden showed last season in Cincinnati, he’s a proponent of two running back systems. BenJarvis Green-Ellis shouldered the load, while Giovani Bernard provided a change of pace and a pass catching option out of the backfield.
Gruden may attempt a similar approach in Washington with Morris and Helu – as long as Helu proves he’s ready for it.