When the Raiders signed veteran running back Roy Helu Jr. to a two-year deal after the 2014 season, it was with big hopes that he could be a complement to starter Latavius Murray.
The former Nebraska standout was a terrific third-down back and receiver for Washington in 2013 and 2014, with seasons of 31 and 47 catches. Helu also was known as an excellent pass protector. The analytics website Pro Football Focus judged that the Raiders had made an excellent addition to their offense, noting he ranked No. 2 in the NFL among all running backs in yards per route run as a receiver in 2014, and had just nine drops in his first four seasons as a pro.
But Helu’s career with the Raiders has come to an end without the running back ever making a significant contribution to the franchise because of injuries.
He played very little in 2015 because of injuries, carrying the ball just 17 times for 39 yards and making nine catches for 75 yards. Now, Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio announced that the team is parting ways with Helu after offseason surgery on both hips has rendered him unable to participate in training camp.
The loss of Helu opens the door for rookie running back DeAndre Washington, a fifth-round pick from Texas Tech, to step into the backfield as Murray’s backup and change-of-pace complement.
After his first practices with the team at training camp in Napa over the weekend, Washington said he was excited for his opportunity and is eager to show what he can do as an all-around back.
"I really just want to showcase my versatility," he told a writer for the team’s website. "Whether they be special teams, offense, wherever they need me. It’s fun to bounce around a little bit."”
Washington, too, could make an impact as a punt returner, where he’ll be given an audition.
Washington says he’s just looking “to stack good days together” and improve consistently throughout camp. He believes he can be a nice addition to the offense and help Murray.
"Definitely, we bring different skill sets to the table, so I think it makes it a little bit harder to game plan for opposing teams, and I’m looking forward to it,"” he said.
At Texas Tech, Washington was a durable, all-purpose back. Over four seasons he ran for 3,411 yards, a 5.6-yards per carry average and 23 touchdowns. He also had 124 receptions for 1,091 yards and four TDs.