When the season ended, Roy Helu Jr. had been on the injured reserve list since Week 4. He had been shelved due to a variety of, as they say in hockey, lower body injuries. The big issue seemed to be a toe injury and perhaps because of that he had problems with his Achilles tendon.
By the end of the season, Helu didn’t seem to be a whole lot better off. “I haven’t tried to sprint yet,” he said the day after the Redskins’ season ended. “It’s just random when the pain comes.”
He knew what his injury wasn’t. It was not the same one that caused wide receiver Pierre Garçon to miss six games during the season. “[It’s] different, “Helu said. “I’m not sure how much but I know they’re different.”
It appears that Helu finally has more answers about his health than questions. In February he underwent surgery on his left foot and they discovered some damaged cartilage that wasn’t showing up on examinations. The repair was made and Helu’s rehab finally started to progress. Helu says that he aims to be able to participate in OTA’s starting next month “without limitations”.
If Helu is a full go for the regular season he could bring some elements to the Redskins’ offense that were missing last year. Last year the top two running backs combined to catch 26 passes with Alfred Morris catching 11 and Evan Royster 15. Helu caught seven in his very limited playing time (45 snaps). In 2011 Helu caught 49 passes including a team record 14 in Week 9 against the 49ers. Most of those were dump off passes but he showed he could turn those into gold when he caught a screen and took it 47 yards for a touchdown in the season finale against the Eagles (highlight at 1:20 mark).
Helu also adds a dynamic element to the offense. His hurdle of a Seahawks defender en route to a 23-yard touchdown run was one of the highlights of the 2011 season (see photo above).
The trick with Helu is to be able to use him effectively without overusing him. In 2011 he seemed to wear down under a heavy late season workload. From Weeks 11-13 he carried a total of 73 times for 334 yards. Then in Week 14 he got 23 carries but gained only 52 yards. Helu carried just four times in the season’s final two games.
If Kyle Shanahan can find a way to get Helu eight to 10 touches per game they might be able to convert a few more third-down situations and have another source for explosive plays on the field for defensive coordinators. The key is him getting and staying healthy. It looks like he’s on his way there.