Bigger Role Suits Evan Royster Fine, But Whether It Comes Is Uncertain
ASHBURN – The television was showing a replay of the Washington Redskins’ game against Minnesota during Christmas dinner, and Dawna Royster kept urging her son, Evan, to watch it.
How could she not? He played a special role in it, running for 132 yards despite the Vikings’ 33-26 victory, but the Redskins’ running back had no desire to.
“I didn’t watch it too closely,” Royster said. “I kind of wanted to wait to sit down and watch film.”
What Royster saw, in addition to the fifth 100-yard performance by a Washington running back this season, was the makings of a player who was comfortable in the scheme.
Royster picked up nearly 100 of his yards after breaking free from a defender. He displayed good vision and strong awareness on his runs and made strong, definitive cuts when bursting through the line.
“You know, they put us through it in practice so much that it just kind of came naturally,” Royster said. “We’ve seen the holes. We’ve seen the cuts so many times in the week leading up to the game that it just kind of becomes reaction.”
Royster, a sixth-round choice in April’s NFL Draft, admitted to being more sore than he had in any previous weeks. His 19 carries were the most of his burgeoning professional career; as Penn State’s all-time leading rusher, he had three seasons with more than 1,000 yards.
But this year has been different. Royster, informed “20 to 30 minutes” before the game began that he’d take over the primary role as Roy Helu was battling a variety of injuries, was on the practice squad for the majority of the season before being signed to the active roster on Nov. 22.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Royster said. “My emotions are up and down. At the beginning of the season, I was disappointed I was cut, but at the same time, I just need to come out and work every week – and I did, and it paid off.”
What happens Sunday at Philadelphia, the Redskins’ final game of the season, remains to be seen. Helu maintained Wednesday he felt much better after resting over the previous four days, though he was still limited in practice.
If Helu is unavailable to play, Washington will stick with Royster. His backup is uncertain; Ryan Torain, who served in that role Saturday, was released by the team Tuesday afternoon, though in recent games fullback Darrel Young has carried the ball.
Royster said Torain’s release was tough to see, given that he considers the running back a mentor and friend. But the decision was made easier with Helu’s and Royster’s emergence over the past six weeks.
“I hope that was the reasoning for it,” Royster said. “I hope it’s because Roy and I have played well.”