Evan Royster has been here before. He knows what it means to be on the roster bubble and he knows what it takes to stick. It is time to do it again.
Royster ran for a two-yard touchdown late in the first half of the Redskins’ 24-23 win over the Cleveland Browns on Monday night at FedEx Field. That was the play that gained the most attention from fans and media. But it’s probably not the one that will have the biggest impact on Royster’s chances of making the final 53-man roster.
That came moments earlier when Royster took a short pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins and turned it into a 24-yard gain to set up that touchdown in the first place. Royster caught 15 passes for the Redskins in 2012. For a team looking for help out of the backfield in that area, a play like that can only help.
“I think the reception is bigger film wise just because it shows that I can go out and catch the ball out of the backfield,” Royster said. “Hopefully the coaches see that and give me more chances.”
Royster was limited early in training camp with a hamstring injury. It looked like his time with his hometown team might be done. But the Westfield High graduate – and Penn State’s all-time leading rusher – worked his way back onto the field. He carried the ball seven times for 23 yards in the preseason opener against New England and caught a pass for six more yards in that game.
Against the Browns, though, he had to make the most of limited chances. Royster carried the ball only on that short touchdown run and that reception was his only target of the day. For now, those chances will have to do.
Royster, 26, is competing with Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk and college free agent Silas Redd for what will likely be one last spot at running back behind Alfred Morris and Roy Helu. Thompson hasn’t played or practiced since that Aug. 7 game against New England because of an ankle injury.
Seastrunk is a rookie and has performed well in the second half against third and fourth-teamers with a combined 19 carries for 98 yards in two games. But he is also has questions about his abilities in pass protection and no track record as a pass catcher. Redd carried the ball nine times for 45 yards against the Patriots with a pair of receptions and had another five carries for 19 yards on Monday. He’s looked good. But is it enough to oust Royster? No word yet on if Thompson will return to practice on Wednesday.
For so much of his time in Washington, Royster has been defined by what he can’t do. He isn’t a power back like Morris, he doesn’t have the athleticism of Helu, he doesn’t have the speed of a Thompson or a Seastrunk. But there’s something to be said for reliability. Maybe in a reserve back that’s all the Redskins need. The coaching staff will decide if that trumps the upside of younger players. Either way, Royster has kept himself in the mix after a rough start to training camp.
“I think people have counted me out for a while,” Royster said. “My job is to keep fighting, keep going out and playing. I don’t even really listen to what other people say. I just want to play football, I want to be on the team.”