This is a problem the Washington Redskins used to not have.
Nevertheless, buried amidst the endless speculation surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin III‘s return from knee surgery, and the amazing rookie season of running back Alfred Morris, is the return to health of running back Roy Helu Jr.
The former Nebraska Cornhusker was a revelation for the Redskins as a rookie during the 2011 preseason, before enjoying a fine rookie season. Helu would lead the Redskins in rushing that season with 640 yards and a 4.2 yard per carry average.
Last season, however, was a different story.
An Achilles’ injury limited Helu during the preseason, and he wouldn’t see action until the team’s final preseason game. As the regular season started, Helu remained hobbled by lower leg injuries and turf toe, recording a mere two carries and seven receptions in three games. His season would end Sept. 26 as he was placed on injured reserve.
In the meantime, much has changed.
Morris, an unheralded sixth round pick in 2012, emerged as the clear No. 1 back with 1,613 yards rushing, 13 touchdowns and an astounding 4.8 yard per carry average. Morris’ rookie contract has three years remaining, and will be the Redskins feature back for the foreseeable future. Also, Evan Royster appears to be positioned to secure the No. 2 running back job behind Morris.
Making things more difficult for Helu is the Redskins used two draft picks on running backs getting Chris Thompson from Florida State in the fifth round and Jawan Jamison from Rutgers in the seventh. Furthermore, veteran Keiland Williams, a very good special teams player, is in the mix to make the roster as well.
In short, running back is arguably the Redskins deepest position, and Helu is in a battle simply to make the team, as the Redskins will likely not have roster space for more than three of the backs discussed.
Now, part of this will depend on health. Thompson, for one, is coming off a torn anterior-cruciate ligament.
Of course, Helu’s health will be a question as well. I suppose, if Helu has fully returned to health, he could unseat Royster as the backup. Helu is clearly a better receiver than Royster and provides a good complement for Morris as a third down back.
However, if Helu continues to suffer from the same nagging injuries this whole discussion may be academic, as the team has numerous desirable options. At minimum, Helu is in a battle to make the roster, healthy or not.