Hello, Helu: Running back bursts on the Skins scene just in time

Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu (29) is chased by New England Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington (24), right, during the first half of an NFL football game on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Rich Lipski)

Dave Johnson, wtop.com

WASHINGTON — This Redskins’ season is out of time, but Roy Helu has burst through tackles and onto the scene just in time.

The days of Clinton Portis and his characters like  the “Angel of Southeast Jerome”  are long gone and the Redskins’ quest for an every-down running back is centering on Helu. In the 34-27 loss to the Patriots, Helu ran for 126 yards and is now the first rookie in club history to rush for over 100 yards in three consecutive games.

It needs to be noted that Helu is racking up these yards with a patchwork offensive line in front of him. Left tackle Trent Williams has started his four-game suspension for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy and right tackle Jammal Brown was sidelined  on Sunday after aggravating a groin injury in pre-game warm ups.

It’s fair to point out that the Patriots’ defense is ranked last in the NFL, but unfair to write Helu off as a fluke because of that. In addition to his running ability, Helu has also proven to be an effective pass catcher out of the backfield and now has over 300 yards receiving on the season.

This is not to say that Helu is now on the expressway to becoming one of the league’s elite backs. Redskins’ Hall-of-Famer John Riggins is intrigued by Helu and on WTOP Monday morning said he was, “not sure Helu will be  a back like Adrian Peterson, but he reminds a little of Roger Craig.”

Like Craig, Helu played at the University of Nebraska. It is an encouraging comparison by Riggins. Craig played in the NFL for 11 seasons and is best known for his eight-year run with the 49ers when he ran for 7,964 yards and had 4,442 receiving yards.

The Redskins have had false starts at running back before. Injuries tripped up  Ryan Torain in  pre-season and then the injuries carried into the regular season. It was hoped that  the 2011 campaign  would be Torain’s breakout season.

Like all thing Redskins, given this team’s track record, it is important to proceed with caution. For now Helu appears to have the substance to provide the Redskins’ offense a foundation while the team turns its attention to a long term answer at quarterback.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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