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Roy Helu’s emergence gives Redskins three-pronged attack

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If football doesn't work out for the Redskins' Roy Helu Jr., he could always try his hand at comedy.

Responding to a query about the different look he presents defenses as opposed to fellow running back Alfred Morris, Helu didn't hesitate.

"Well," he said, "I do have a lighter complexion."

Ba-da-boom. He'll be here all week.

Fortunately for Helu and comedy fans everywhere, football seems to be working out again for the affable young man whose promising rookie season of 2011 was followed by an injury-shortened second season. While the Redskins, at 2-4, still have some issues to address, the offense and particularly the running game are showing signs of rejuvenation.

That Helu has a hand in that brings him great joy after last season was cut to three games with a foot problem that required surgery. In Sunday's 45-41 victory over the Bears, Helu scored three touchdowns, including the game-winner from 3 yards out with only 45 seconds to play.

His other scoring runs were from 3 and 14 yards. The three touchdowns doubled his career total.

"I wasn't playing last season. To be part of something bigger than myself in this organization, I'll take whatever role I can," Helu said. "The greatest thing is I contributed in a win. It is amazing and I'm very thankful to be back and contributing."

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan talked about Morris and Helu providing "a pretty good one-two punch," but the team's rushing attack is back to being three-pronged. The renewed involvement of quarterback Robert Griffin III is the third prong and, Helu agreed, the facet that makes it all work.

"He's such a big threat when we do get the ball in the read-option game," Helu said.

Washington rushed for 209 yards against the Bears, giving the Skins 200-plus rushing yards in successive games for the first time since the fourth and fifth weeks of 1984. Morris (19), Griffin (11) and Helu (11) gave the Redskins three players with at least 11 rushing attempts for only the third time in history. The last time it happened was Dec. 7, 2003 and bonus points if you can name the three — Trung Canidate, Chad Morton and Rock Cartwright.

Griffin, Morris and Helu will likely be easier for Skins fans to recall in future years if they stay healthy and on their current paths. Griffin's running ability gives defenses another worry. Helu gives defenses a fresh set of legs to worry about when Morris needs a break.

"I love those guys," Griffin said. "Alfred, the battering ram, who can even take the top off of it and go for the long runs like he did the week before. And then Helu is more of a speed guy, but he's got a little bit of Alfred in him as well. So we've got two great backs back there who can run the ball as long as we give them the lanes. I feel fortunate to have those two guys behind me."

Helu feels fortunate to be back there.

Drafted in the fourth round out of Nebraska in 2011, he turned in a solid rookie season. Helu rushed for 642 yards in 2011. He had three straight games with 100 or more yards late in the season. He even contributed 14 receptions in one midseason game.

Then he got hurt. Morris emerged as a standout last season, rushing for 1,613 yards. Helu was left to rehab, watch and wonder. Would he be able to make it back?

"Absolutely, thoughts come up in your mind," Helu said. "You have to rebuke them and move on to something greater than that."

That mission seems to have been accomplished. And though Helu got all the end-zone glory, Morris seemed genuinely pleased.

"I'm so happy that he got those three touchdowns," Morris said. "He deserves it. He really works hard. When he does get in there, he goes all out.

"I don't mind it at all. Do I need breathers and stuff? Not really. I feel like I can play the entire game. But like I said, Roy deserves to get in there and get some reps. I'm glad to go out of there and let him go in."

Through the first three games, Helu had only one rushing attempt and five receptions. He's had at least 41 rushing yards in each of the past three games along with seven receptions. So it isn't like he re-emerged against the Bears. What made the game stand out were the touchdowns. All three of them.

"It was good, it felt good just to respond in the way I was able to," Helu said. "I hardly felt any hinderance with my surgery from last season, which was really encouraging."

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