This week's segment of the Hogs Haven round table had us all discussing one of our two rookie running backs, sixth rounder Evan Royster. Royster was promoted from the practice squad and was given his first career carry against the Seahawks in week 12. He saw his first start after injuries slowed down fellow rookie running back Roy Helu in week 16 against the Giants where he took 19 rushes for 132 yards. He followed that up with 20 rushes for 113 yards against the Eagles in week 17.
Steve: Royster went from being that guy on the practice squad, to a really solid runner for the Redskins. Now you can debate whether Ryan Torain ever deserved a roster spot over Royster, but any way you cut it Royster was impressive for a 6th rounder with limited opportunities. Now Royster will never be the type of guy who breaks big play after big play, but he runs so well, that he gets the most out of ever opportunity.I know I could get some flak for rating Royster with an 'A' grade in running ability, but I think a case can be made. Royster despite having a 100 less carries managed half of the 20+ yard runs as fellow rookie Roy Helu (two for Royster, four for Helu). Royster also managed an impressive 5.9 yards per carry. While that number is unsustainable, it does show some nice potential for Royster going forward. Another thing that was striking to me, was the fact that Royster managed a 1st down on 33% of his touches (both running and receiving), where as Helu (21%) and Hightower (20%) were well behind that mark.Royster's late season emergence means that the Redskins RB need is now well on the back burner. Helu will still go into the year as the starter, but I fully expect Royster to play a significant role next season. If he keeps playing at this level he could well end up as a starter down the line. For now though the Redskins should be happy if he remains a significant contributor.2012 Stat Prediction: (Note: I'm expecting the Redskins will run a lot more next year) 160 carries for 750 yards (about 4.7ypc) 4 TD's, 20 receptions for 160 yards 1 TD
Ronnie: When looking at the 53-man roster at the beginning of the regular season, I happened to notice they had placed Royster on the practice squad. All I can remember was using so many curse words in one sentence that a sailor would have covered his ears. I knew we had Hightower in the shoot, and Torain was there who has had some success in the past, but watching Royster run against Tampa (pre-season) was like watching a raw diamond being pulled out of a mine. Just a little polishing here and there, and you've got yourself a great looking stone.Royster's ability in the backfield is going to be relied on heavily in 2012, probably even more-so than Helu's. In Royster's short time playing, he massed a 5.9-yard average on the ground, and 7.6 in the air (These numbers, especially the ground averagen will change. It's still awesome to see that kind of production out of a Washington back). There were a few times that I noticed him overlooking an assignment for a block. Those were on disguised blitzes, though. Something Bobby Turner will definitely beat out of him during camp. I look forward to a running game next season with Royster and Helu. I really do think Royster will win the starting spot for 2012.2012 Stat Prediction: 170 carries for 825 yards with seven 20+ yarders and 7 TD's (Go big or go home), and 25 receptions for 175 yards with a TD.
Kevin: Royster certainly got forgotten in the RB shuffle with all the hype Hightower, Torain and Helu received in the early part of the 2010 season. Some interesting notes from Royster's senior year at PSU: "Penn State began the season with three new offensive linemen and four different starting O-Line units in the first six games...he still had six 100+ yard games for the year." Penn State was 12-0 when Royster had 100+ yards over his 4 years. Can Royster be that guy that simply advances the ball for the Skins?Sure, Royster does not have breakaway speed, but neither did Emmitt Smith who ran a 4.8 in his combine 40. Am I comparing Royster to Smith, absolutely (not), but if Royster can learn to block, he'll become a great change of pace back for this Redskins offense. The guy just get yards, as Steve Shoup wrote about after Royster's first game.
2012 Stat Prediction: It's hard to imagine Royster will break the top 2 RBs in 2012, especially since they'll likely draft another one mid-round, which puts him in a backup role at best. I think he sees the same type of numbers as last year: 50 attempts, 350 yards, 1 TD.
Parks: It's hard for me to get excited about Mike Shanahan runningback, they seem to be a dime a dozen and just a cog in the machine for Shanny. I don't want to inflate the value of the rookies, like I feel some fans are already doing with the young crop. We could sit here and go through the historical list of the Shanny RB carousel, but we all know the stories of success with many guys we have never previously heard of. With that being said I think we do have a good running back rotation and three backs that can complement each other. But at the same time all our running backs have lacked durability and the notion of the "feature back" needs to be thrown out. For the Redskins running game to be successful they need to stick to a rotation of Royster, Helu, and Hightower. But it doesn't stop there, Kyle Shanahan has already stated that if Hightower re-signs then the Redskins will actively seek out a fourth running back to the group (likely through the draft), and that's a move I fully endorse.So, in short, Royster was a pleasant surprise, but I'm not going to get to excited about his individual output. We've similar performances by guys like Ryan Torain, the key is long term sustainability. Royster needs to improve his pass protection and also work on his ability to maintain his balance when he gets into the secondary. There is no way he be the guy, but rather one of the guys; and if he wants to be a successful member of this foursome then he needs to be ready when called upon and work on his big play capabilities.
2012 Stat Prediction: 85 carries, 325 yards, 2 TDs, 20 receptions, 125 yards
Tiller: Evan Royster is a natural fit for a zone blocking offense. He is best when asked to make one cut, and go. Although Royster does not have that great burst and long speed you would like to see in a running back, he possesses great vision and patience, which are huge attributes in Shanahan's offense. He runs with good balance and body lean, rarely losing yardage on plays. He is a good receiver out of the backfield, as was evident during his time at Penn State. He would often be asked to line up in the slot, or even split out as a wide receiver opposite the strength of the formation, where he was used in one-on-one match-ups against linebackers and safeties. He has naturally soft hands and catches the ball away from his body. His weakness is pass blocking. He is more than capable, but he needs to learn blitz pick up and stunt recognition, if he is to take that next step.2012 Stat Prediction: My guess is Royster will serve as our third down back and may see action as a spot-starter if injury occurs to Helu or Hightower(if he returns). If Hightower does not return, this could significantly increase Roysters role. I predict 300-400 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, and 20-25 receptions for 250 yards and one touchdown.
UkRedskin: My initial impressions after pre-season was that he wouldn't make the team or have much of an impact. I didn't see anything special. But luckily for the Redskins I don't work for them. He made the practice squad and was called up due to injuries. I still wasn't expecting much from him when he was given the starting position after Helu got injured. But he proved me wrong. He worked brilliantly at the end of the season out of the "20 personnel" package that saw him line up alongside Darrel Young in the backfield with no tight ends. They forced defenses to go man-to-man on our offensive line and young. We blocked well and Royster cut back well almost every time. He was a better pass-protector than Helu, which is a huge positive, but needs to continue to work on it. The other thing that impressed me was his ability to keep his legs going despite tackle attempts from defenders. Little things like that will give him a chance to get yards after contact and keep him on the team challenging for more carries.
2012 Stat Prediction: He ended the year on a pretty lofty average which will be very hard for him to maintain. But if he can keep it above four, it would be a significant contribution. I think he would get around 350-400 yards and maybe 5 touchdowns.
Ken: He came in and got yards for us when we had nobody else. That story is not new for a team that has been playing for nothing in December for a while now. I am not convinced Evan can be the number one guy for 16 games, but it would seem he is capable of providing quality depth. We need it.
2012 Stat Prediction: 90 carries, 450 yards, 3 touchdowns.
Hogs Haven Grade:
Running Ability: B+
Pass Protection: C
Catching Ability: B
Thanks as always to Ken, Kevin, Parks, Ronnie, Steve and Tiller for their contributions.