No Matter How Limited, Evan Royster Still Sees Opportunity
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Evan Royster knows seven carries won’t make him the Washington Redskins’ every-down running back, but those seven carries still represent an opportunity.
“Every game is meaningful, even if it is the preseason,” Royster said. “We’re all fighting for a roster spot, and the first [game is] always tough, you know?”
Royster gained 21 yards on those carries in the Redskins’ 7-6 victory over Buffalo in the preseason opener for both teams at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday.
He, like all starters, played only 14 snaps. The top unit left the game after Robert Griffin III threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon with 5:54 remaining in the first quarter; Roy Helu succeeded Royster and had 17 yards, while Alfred Morris had a game-high 54 yards on 15 carries while playing nearly the entire second half.
Tim Hightower, who opened the season as the starter a year ago, did not play as he attempts to recover from a torn ACL in his left knee.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday that selection of Royster as the first-team back against the Bills does not necessarily signify his standing on the team. Royster has worked as the first-team running back through the first two weeks of training camp, while Helu has served as the primary backup and Morris has served as the third-string back.
It also wouldn’t be surprising for the Redskins to use their backs depending on matchups. Royster can gain yards after contact on the inside run, Helu has shown an ability to bounce outside and catch and Hightower is the best pass protector of the three.
Hightower, who tore his ACL at Carolina on Oct. 23 and was the top back at the time of the injury, hasn’t participated in team drills during the past week. The team’s goal is to work him into shape so that he can make his preseason debut Aug. 25 against Indianapolis.
Royster’s only mishap Thursday was a fumble on his sixth offensive play – one he said he took all the credit for. Griffin tried to hand the ball off to him at the Redskins’ own 21-yard line, but it bounced free and safety George Wilson fell on it.
“The ball was a little low,” Royster said. “It’s tough to say. I should have had it. I will take full blame for it. The ball was a little low, but I tried to pull it up and it fell off my hands.”