Roy Helu led the ‘Skins in rushing in 2011 and projected to be the running back of the future. Last year, an injury-marred preseason cost him his job and, ultimately, the entire 2012 season. Helu (I think) is finally healthy (he better be). He has a head coach that treats running backs like a rock star treats groupies; at the slightest blemish or source of frustration, he’s on to the next one. Alfred Morris seems safe as the starter (as safe as you can be as a Shanahan running back), but nothing is settled on the depth chart beyond that. The ‘Skins absolutely need a change-of-pace alternative in the backfield. Morris cannot be expected to carry the same load he did in 2012 (335 carries), and the team got virtually no production in the passing game out of the backfield — a key, I think, to limiting RGIII’s frantic third-down scrambles and keeping the franchise quarterback healthy.
Helu has the skills to provide the lighting to Morris’ thunder and showed good hands in 2011, but Shanahan fired a shot over Helu’s bow on draft day. In selecting talented RBs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison in the fifth and seventh rounds, respectively, the coach clearly showed he wasn’t comfortable with Helu as his primary alternative and served the running back a passive “produce or else” ultimatum. Shanahan was spot-on both in his assessment of Helu’s fragility and the need for running back production beyond Morris and on passing downs. Now it’s over to Helu to ward off the competition and fill a void on offense.