by Grant PaulsenBy Grant Paulsen

Evan Royster is looking forward to Friday night’s preseason-opener with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

A Westfield High School product who grew up in the area and has an enormous Northern Virginia following, Royster is one of six running backs competing for three spots on the Redskins’ roster.

“This is my chance to show the coaches that I can get out there and react and be a football player,” Royster said. “It’s just a chance for me to show that I can perform in a game situation. We’ve been out here practicing but we haven’t even gone in full pads yet.”

The 2011 sixth-round pick was the 177th player chosen in April’s draft, a bit surprising when you consider that he finished an illustrious three-year run as Penn State’s starter as the school’s all-time rushing leader.

But despite rushing for 3,932 yards and 29 touchdowns with the Nittany Lions, Royster doesn’t possess any one calling-card skill. He’s not known for blazing speed or super strength. He’s just known as a guy who has always gained yards.

“I’m here because I want to play,” Royster said about battling for a spot on Washington’s roster. “I want to get the opportunity to show that I can be a consistent back for this team and even get a chance to play more in the regular season.”

The one skill tool that could determine Royster’s fate during his initial NFL training camp is his ability to pass protect. If he can prove competent in protection, he’ll help his chances to be viewed as a potential third back.

“I’d say I’m decent at it,” Royster said about blocking defenders. “I’m getting better. It’s all about making the transition from college to the NFL, it’s a completely different style of pass blocking. I was successful in college but it’s about translating it to the NFL game.”

How does picking up a college blitz vary from protecting a passer in the NFL?

“It’s a completely different thing. It’s not as much about getting on a block and staying on a block, it’s more about stopping them in their tracks so the quarterback can have time to get a pass off.”

Royster is hoping to play extensively on Friday night and he might get what he’s clamoring for. Projected starting tailback Ryan Torain isn’t expected to play (broken hand) and his replacement on the first-team, Tim Hightower, isn’t going to be shouldering a major workload.

But racking up yards isn’t Royster’s foremost preseason goal. He says crossing the goal line to score an NFL touchdown isn’t even at the top of his preseason to-do list.

“Protection is the most important thing for me,” he reiterated. “I want to be able to be a third-down back so that’s the goal right now, to show that I can react to different blitzes. If you can’t pass-protect you can’t play.

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