When it comes to hard luck, you could do better than Roy Helu.
After a successful rookie season where he posted a combined 1,019 yards and three touchdowns, Helu looked to be locked in as Washington's starting running back entering the 2012 campaign. But a combination of lower-body injuries limited him in training camp, and his once-promising career took a hit with the stunning emergence of Alfred Morris. Helu missed nearly the entire year nursing his injuries and was buried on the depth chart after the Redskins took Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison in the 2013 NFL Draft.
His future with the team, while seemingly secure, is as uncertain as any player on the roster. With the glut of athletes taking up the backfield behind Morris, Helu's role is undefined. Will he be a prime performer in 2013 as part of an offense that has skill all over the field?
If healthy, there's no reason why Helu can't take over the No. 2 spot in the backfield. While he's not in the same league as Morris, he's definitely more versatile. While he's not as speedy as some of the younger backs that were drafted in April, he's more proven and could fit the mold as a third-down back to relieve Morris of some carries. In addition, he could give the Redskins something they didn't have all of last season—a receiving threat out of the backfield.
In fact, Helu could be the man on the depth chart who might push this offense to the next level. Washington ranked just 24th in the NFL in third down conversion percentage in 2012; it became obvious as the season rolled along that they were missing something in those situations. It was one of the few consistent weaknesses the Redskins displayed on that side of that ball, and the lack of any kind of situational back surely contributed.
But what if Thompson or Jamison takes over the second spot? Then the questions really begin for Helu. There really wouldn't be an immediate spot for him on the team; he could be released or kept around for greater depth. Either way, it would essentially be a death knell for his career as a Redskin.
It's an unfortunate situation for the once-promising Helu, but it's also the reality of the "next man up" mentality that pervades the NFL. Helu went down and Alfred Morris stepped up and took over. That's the way it is—and to Helu's credit, he has done all he can to get back on the field in 2013.
Will his hard work pay off? That remains to be seen. Ultimately, it may come down entirely to whether or not he can stay healthy. The Redskins are happy with Morris holding down the fort, but it would certainly be nice to have a player like Helu as a backup plan.