The Oakland Raiders Sign Former Washington Redskins Running Back Roy Helu Jr.

March 11, 2015 4:06 PM PT

Shawn Jonas

ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders have signed unrestricted free agent Running Back  Roy Helu, Jr., the club announced Wednesday.

Helu, Jr. has spent the previous four seasons with the Washington Redskins. He appeared in 48 games with five starts over his tenure with Washington, rushing for 1,132 yards on 255 carries (4.4 avg.) and seven touchdowns. Proving a versatile pass catcher out of the backfield, Helu, Jr. has added 1,152 receiving yards on 129 receptions (8.9 avg.) and three touchdowns. Since 2011, his 8.9 yards per catch rank seventh in the NFL amongst all running backs.

The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2011, rushing for 640 yards and adding another 379 receiving yards. For his efforts, he was named to the Pro Football Writers Association’s All-Rookie Team. Last season, Helu, Jr. set a career high with 477 receiving yards, an 11.4 receiving average and two receiving touchdowns. He led all Washington running backs in receiving yards in 2011 and 2013-14.

A native of nearby Danville, California, Helu, Jr. was originally selected by the Redskins in the fourth round (105th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft out of Nebraska. He played in 48 career games for the Cornhuskers from 2007-10, making 28 starts and totaling 578 rushes for 3,404 rushing yards (5.9 avg.) and 28 touchdowns. He attended San Ramon Valley High School in nearby Danville, Calif., where he earned All-East Bay League honors in each of his final two seasons.

Roy Helu signed a 2 year / $4,000,000 contract with the Oakland Raiders, including an annual average salary of $2,000,000.

The Oakland Raiders Conference Call Q & A

Q: How appealing is it to come back home to play in the Bay Area?

Helu Jr.: “It’s appealing, it’s very appealing. We were just visiting here a week ago, almost exactly, and there’s the weather that is totally different. We don’t get snow here in the Bay Area like we did in Washington, so that’s a big attraction. But it’s appealing, really, just to return to familiarity, and with my family being in close proximity, their support and their support of my family with my wife and our kids. There was a lot of appeal to come back.”

Q: Did you talk to Jack Del Rio or Bill Musgrave about how you can contribute here?

Helu Jr.: “Yeah, not so much into all those details, but more so into the offense that will be run, the vision, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself again and landing here was another, I consider, a very unique opportunity. Coach Musgrave has an offensive background that seems to blend with a couple [styles] like a traditional offense and some spread. It was pretty appealing and it will be interesting to see how everything comes together once we get the team together here.”

Q: When you get drafted by a team run by Mike Shanahan, people tend to see you as a zone runner, yet the Raiders are talking about running a power scheme. How do you think your skillset fits into that?

Helu Jr.: “I’m attracted to a gap scheme as well. There is something that was really exciting about a power scheme whenever we would really run it out in Washington, whether it be from the gun or whether it be under center. That matched my ability and passion for running with patience, and what happens is when you run in a wide zone scheme, because the tempo is so fast, you really have to readjust what patience looks like. So I think whatever we will go to, but primarily if it’s gap or zone, zone I’ll be familiar with and gap, I have a desire to run as well.”

Q: You seemed to blossom as a pass receiver last year. Is that something you’ve been refining since you got in the league?

Helu Jr.: “Yeah, God blessed me with that skillset of good hand-eye coordinator. So that’s really planned out since I’ve been in high school by Coach Dave Kravitz, who has seen them all and identified that – he and my dad primarily when I was in sophomore in high school. A lot of my tape that was sent out had to do with the passing game and the screen game, which landed me at Nebraska. But I wasn’t nearly as good, to make it simple, as a pass receiver until I started really refining and sharpening my hands and my eyes, my hand-eye coordination, within these last couple years.”

Q: Coming to a team without a winning season since 2002, all of the free agents we have talked to have discussed the positive vibe around the building. What is it about what you are hearing from the coaches that makes you think you’re going to be a part of turning something around here?

Helu Jr.: “They are sold into turning this around as if it’s been their life goal and vision to actually have this opportunity to do so. I don’t know if many coaches are ambitious to get the job in Oakland, because of what you just said – since 2002. But I guess for me, what was glaring, as I already mentioned, was just the passion that they have for the vision that they have. Honestly, what I have bought into and I believe to be true is that what is going to make a difference is this offensive scheme that we’re going to be a part of. And that’s what – when I talked on the phone with coach Musgrave, our offensive coordinator – when he talked to me about some of the things that we’re going to do here in Oakland offensively and especially with Derek Carr and how that fits his skillset, I was in. I was pretty sold on it. So it’s not just, ‘Hey, we’re coming in to a situation where it’s been a losing culture, tradition, et cetera, and we’re going to continue with doing these certain things that have been here.’ I think the offense that’s going to be established here will be something that I guess has not been seen much prior to their arrival, if that all makes sense.”

Q: There is talk the Raiders might be in the mix for running back DeMarco Murray, somebody you’ve seen a couple of times a year. As a running back, would you welcome bringing another great running back in?

Helu Jr.: “Yes, and I say that confidently, because first off, I enjoy competition and I know that bringing DeMarco here will bring everybody’s game up in our running back group. Secondly, I don’t think there is any hindrance in bringing any very good player into an organization, especially where you want to start winning. So those two coupled together, I have no problem with other players being brought in. Obviously, I want to be a contributor to the offense and that’s my passion and my desire, but I’m not making the judgment calls on all those, and I’m content with that.”

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