When Evan Royster looks at film of his second professional start, the Washington Redskins running back doesn’t see the 28 yards he gained on a toss to the left against the Philadelphia Eagles last January.
Instead, he sees all the yards he would have gained if he hadn’t slipped without being touched by a defender.
“My mistakes — that’s what stands out to me because I want to get better every day,” Royster said.
That one play epitomizes Royster’s status as he begins his second NFL season. He established himself as a contributor in the Redskins‘ backfield last year by averaging 5.9 yards on 56 carries in six games. But he could be even better.
And considering the uncertain division of playing time among Tim Hightower, Roy Helu Jr. and him, Royster has the opportunity improve on his encouraging rookie season and maybe even start.
“In training camp [last year], I’m not sure I even really noticed him,” guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “He was just kind of a guy. When he did get his opportunity, he’d show flashes, and then toward the end of the year he was just a good player. Now we might be able to ride him all the way.”
Now, the Redskins have solved that mystery.
“He’s got a little wiggle to him, maybe the best wiggle of anybody in our running back crew,” Lichtensteiger said. “He can make people miss and get a little space.”
Where, exactly, does “a little wiggle” come from?
“I can’t tell you,” Shanahan said. “You can either do it, or you can’t. There’s some people with innate ability, when they’re in the hole, to make the right cut. And he seems to always make the right cut.”
Perhaps that’s because Royster has been running in a zone scheme since his standout career at Westfield High in Chantilly. Royster loves the system because there’s no set hole for a running back to target. He has freedom to find a lane and then sharply cut upfield and get through it.
After his first season, Royster felt comfortable diagnosing running lanes, but his problems started there.
“I need to be more decisive at times,” he said. “I’ve got to trust myself. I’ll see a hole, and sometimes I’ll delay myself to it. I’ve just got to hit it.