With Tim Hightower out for the season and a third running back for the roster yet to be determined, most are assuming that Ryan Torain will start at running back for the Redskins when they play the Bills in Toronto on Sunday.
A look at how playing time was distributed last week, however, might indicate that that’s not the case.
I knew that Torain did not play much last week but when looking at the snap counts done by Ryan O’Halloran at CSNwashington.com I was surprised to see that he played all of three snaps.
He carried to ball twice, once in each of the first two series of the second half, for a net of minus-five years (one for minus-seven, the other for two) so he was in there for one other snap.
Roy Helu, however, saw plenty of action. He played 33 of the 67 offensive snaps. That is two more than Hightower had and, of course, 30 more than Torain.
Helu played every snap of the Redskins’ final four possessions while Torain watched.
To be sure, the Redskins were trailing by at least 10 on each of those last four possessions and perhaps Mike and Kyle Shanahan wanted Helu, who is more of a home run threat than Torain, in the lineup for those reasons. But that also means that they trust Helu in pass protection since they were in all-passing mode at that point in time.
The game was getting out of hand from midway through the third quarter on but it was never true garbage time. While it never really felt like the Redskins really had a chance to catch the Panthers, Helu wasn’t in the game just because the coaches wanted to give the rookie a little work. He was in because they thought Helu gave them the best chance to score some points.
The fact that the coaches preferred Helu over Torain for the last quarter and a half does not necessarily mean that they will have the same preference at the start of next Sunday’s game. But given how the Panthers game ended up it would not be at all surprising to see Helu lined up to take the first snap against the Bills.