The Washington Times - August 6, 2013, 03:13PM

RICHMOND—Pass protection is a crucial part of a third-down running back’s responsibilities. The Redskins attempted a pass on 148 of their 190 third downs last season, so it’s an ability coaches demand from the running backs.

Roy Helu Jr. has done well in that regard this summer as he tries to win the third-down back role. Not only does he catch the ball well overall, he pass blocked particularly well during team drills on Tuesday.


On one play, he came across the formation to pick up blitzing safety Brandon Meriweather. Later, he slid to his left and squared up outside linebacker Brian Orakpo on the edge. Near the end of practice, he stuffed linebacker Will Compton’s A-gap blitz.

Now in his third training camp, Helu is comfortable recognizing where the rush is coming from, which is as critical an element as any for a pass-blocking running back.

“A lot has to do with just facing up blitzes,” Helu said after Tuesday’s practice. “Knowing where they’re coming from helps way more to get in position.”

When Helu first joined the Redskins as a fourth-round pick in 2011, he tended to duck his head when blocking, and he sometimes got off balance. On Tuesday, however, he squared his shoulders to the defender and didn’t lunge.

He embraces the physicality of pass blocking, something running backs coach Bobby Turner emphasizes to his players.

“All our form comes from our running back coach,” Helu said. “His biggest thing is you’re in a seven-second fist fight. That’s how long the longest play will be. On average it’s less than that, so we just prep ourselves for that type of mentality.”