The difference is noticeable to himself and others. Evan Royster didn’t make much of an impression last summer, one reason he landed on the practice squad. By season’s end he was a different runner. And now at the start of training camp he feels even better.
“I’m a lot more comfortable,” Royster said. “My coach has mentioned to me plenty of times that I look like I’m not so nervous out there and I can feel that. I don’t have to think what a play is.”
Royster is one of three runners competing for the starting job, along with Tim Hightower and Roy Helu. With Hightower practicing but coming back from a torn ACL, Royster took snaps with the first team ahead of the others.
“We’ve got a lot of guys we believe have the ability to play and play well, let we’ll let it play out,” Coach Mike Shanahan said.
It doesn’t mean a whole lot because the games will determine the eventual depth chart. But it’s also not a point that some figured Royster would be a year ago.
“He’s come a long way,” Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “In training camp I’m not sure if I noticed him last year.”
He then asked if Royster was even active all year. The answer: No. Royster was only active for the last six games of the season and carried the ball 56 times for 328 yards. But he rushed for a combined 245 yards in the last two games.
“He was just kind of a guy and when he did get his opportunity he showed good signs and then he’d fall out of nowhere and show flashes,” Lichtensteiger said. “Toward the end of the year he was just a good player. He developed into a good player over the course of a year. That’s pretty rare.”
Royster said he’s improved running the inside zone – he ran that a lot in high school and college – but is still adjusting to the outside zone.
“I’m learning to put my foot on the ground and get north and south instead of trying to stay at that angle,” Royster said.
“He’s a good hard runner,” Lichtensteiger said. “He has a little wiggle to him, maybe the best wiggle of anybody in our running back group. That helps him make people miss and get a little space.”
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