Somebody forgot to tell Roy Helu that Friday night was supposed to be about John Beck.
A week after carrying the ball just eight times in Washington’s preseason opener, Helu notched 14 rushes and 18 touches, serving as the focal point of the Redskins’ offense in a coming-out party that saw the rookie tailback amass 124 all-purpose yards.
“I thought he showed us a lot tonight,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “One of the reasons why we drafted him is we thought he had that big-time speed.”
Helu rushed for 101 yards, showcasing speed and shiftiness as he darted in and out of traffic and around would-be tacklers.He picked up 51 of his yards on one fascinating carry that saw him sprint all the way to the sideline before coming to a complete stop so that he could change directions to continue making his way down the field.
The 22 year-old also caught a team-high four passes.
“The offensive line did a great job out there,” Helu said after his stellar performance. “It seemed like they got push off the line. The only mistakes were not from them but from me. There are a lot of things I have to improve off the top of my head but only film will [tell].”
One of the many lead-blockers who was creating holes for Helu was tight end Logan Paulsen. A second-year contributor known for his run-blocking, Paulsen liked what he say from Washington’s emerging prospect in the backfield.
“He’s just got it,” Paulsen said. “You know those guys who just see it and feel it the right way? It’s awesome to see him do that and to run so fast because you don’t have to hold [a block] as long.”
A fourth-round pick selected 105th overall in April’s draft, Helu will have to continue to hone his pass-protection skills if he hopes to expand his role in the Redskins’ backfield as the season progresses. But for now, he looks to be a safe option to make the roster and the ideal change-of-pace back to supplement the power rushing styles of both Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain.
“He’s a different runner but he compliments me very well,” said Hightower, who rushed for 70 yards on six carries on Friday night.
“He pushed me today, which you want to see. I’m a competitive guy. I like competition and it brings out the best. He’s done a great job. He’s coming along very quickly and he showed why they drafted him tonight.”