Who stood out most in Preseason Game 3?
Though he put one ball on the ground, Roy Helu Jr. played his most complete game for the Redskins since returning to action after suffering season-ending injuries to his toe and Achilles in 2012.
Against the Buffalo Bills, Helu gashed the defense for 70 yards on 13 carries, good for a 5.4 yards per carry average. Helu also showed his ability out of the backfield with a nifty 21 yard reception in the first quarter.
“It’s been better than I’ve imagined, this process where I am right now,” Helu said after the game. “I wasn’t expecting to be this healthy. I’m really thankful to have the opportunity.”
Coming back after a year away from the game can prove difficult, and Redskins brass know how hard Helu has worked.
“You always hope guys come back,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said of Helu. “Roy had a good first year then he had a setback.”
While battling back from the problems in his leg, Helu questioned if he could get all the way back to his best ability.
“I guess the same desire to play football very passionately that was the thing I was suspicious about,” he said. “I definitely wanted to be a part of the Redskins, I just didn’t know if that same passion and desire was going to be there.”
Helu said that all changed once he got back on the field. His passion for the game felt stronger than ever once he got back to Redskins Park for OTAs, and he blamed being away from the team for his questions.
On the field today, Helu proved no doubts about his desire. He played into the third quarter of a preseason game that saw most starters exit after the first 20 plays. And he was just fine with that.
“I’d rather have it this way than have less minutes,” Helu said of playing in the second half of the win over the Bills.
“I feel very fit. Coming into training camp I felt very fit. More fit than after my rookie year,” he said. “It’s carried over these last few weeks.”
Following a rookie season where he rushed for more than 1,600 yards, Alfred Morris has the starting running back locked up.
But Helu looks like a solid pick for the backup position, and he could get on the field even more thanks to his pass-catching ability. Last season Morris only caught 11 passes, and though he worked hard on his catching skills in the offseason, an opening exists for a third down back in the Skins offense.
Helu explained that his ability to catch passes differentiates himself from the other running backs. He made the comparison to two candidates vying for the same job, but one person can speak Spanish.
“Football-lingual” was the word Helu used to describe his dual threats.
“[Coach] wants us to be complete backs,” Helu said. “And definitely that includes catching out of the backfield and protection.”
All the way back from a lost season in 2012, Helu showed against the Bills the impact he can make for the Redskins. His head coach noticed.
“The first preseason game he played I thought he looked good, but today I thought he looked even better,” Shanahan said. “You could tell he looked a lot more comfortable being out there the second time than the first time, and that’s a good sign.”