Mike Shanahan always likes to talk about players taking advantage of opportunities when they get them. He has said that he likes to give a reserve player who steps in and performs when he is needed additional opportunities down the line.
If that is the case, look for Roy Helu Jr. to get the ball in his hands a little more often as the season goes on. He stepped in for an injured Alfred Morris and made two critical plays to clinch the Redskins’ first game of the year.
The plays came back to back. On the first one he improvised a pass route as Robert Griffin III scrambled to his right. Helu turned a 10-yard pass into 28 yards when he turned up field and hurdled a would-be tackler. On the next play, Helu dashed up the middle to score from 14 yards out to give them a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
“When Roy did get his opportunities … I was really pleased with him because he was ready both in the running game and the passing game,” said Shanahan. “You could see his speed, his strength, and he took advantage of a couple of opportunities to get some big plays.”
But will he get more opportunities? He might, according to Kyle Shanahan.
“You never know, you see how the game plays out, what you're getting, what plays you call,” the Redskins’ offensive coordinator said. “We know Helu's a good player, we know what he did his rookie year here. You can tell that he's healthy and that he's the same guy he was his rookie year. I would like to give him the ball more and I think he's done a good job with it. Hopefully it works out for him and we expect him to do what he did [against Oakland].”
As a rookie in 2011, Helu led the team in rushing, picking up 640 yards on 151 carries.
Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 18, 99 days before the NFL draft.
—NFL franchise tag deadline 43
—NFL free agency starts 51
—First Sunday of 2017 season 236
The coordinator search and more
—Did the Redskins underachieve this year? I know that a metric like Football Outsiders' DVOA is not the final word in the quality of a team but looking at it year after year it usually does work out that the teams with the better numbers in DVOA usually win more games than those with worse numbers. The Redskins finished 2016 eighth in DVOA. Considering that 12 teams make the playoffs, that could be considered a playoff quality team. Yet 15 teams finished with a better record than they did. I’m sure there are some holes in the formula for the stat but just looking at that it sure appears that the Redskins did leave some wins out on the field.
—John Keim is reporting that the Redskins are prepared to switch to a 4-3 defense if that is what their new defensive coordinator prefers. They have been in the 3-4 since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. Whether it is because of the scheme or lack of draft and free agent resources spent on the line and at safety, the defense hasn’t been very good. As Keim notes, they will need to make some personnel changes if they do change but with a full load of draft picks and $62 million in cap space this may be the time to do it.
—I expected the angst that was all over Twitter when word of the Rob Ryan interview got out. But it’s pretty dumb to get all worked up over an interview (with all due respect to readers here who may have been upset). It’s not a hiring. Look, somehow or another Ryan managed to stay employed as an NFL defensive coordinator for 12 straight seasons. I don’t know how to research it without going through some very time consuming and tedious steps but I’d be willing to bet that only about a few dozen men in the history of the league have been able to remain a defensive coordinator for that many season in a row. The organization can learn something from sitting down and talking to him for a few hours.
—I understand that we want things to talk about in a relatively slow time. But I just don’t see why there is fear out there over the possibility that Kyle Shanahan will get hired as the coach of the 49ers and somehow steal Kirk Cousins away to be his quarterback. The Redskins can maintain his rights via the franchise tag. They could tag Cousins and trade him to the 49ers but there would be a heavy price in terms of draft picks. But while it’s possible, it’s unlikely. The chances are very, very good that Cousins will be in a Redskins uniform this year via either the tag or a long-term deal.
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As the Redskins settle into the offseason without both an offensive and defensive coordinator, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler debate who will get the jobs, and when they will be announced.
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