ASHBURN – Redskin running back Evan Royster got his shot to start for Washington last fall when Roy Helu became sidelined with injury. The Penn State product looked stellar and surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark in three-straight games to close out the season. The “three-headed-monster” returned this off-season when Tim Hightower re-signed with the Redskins, and the battle for the starting role at tailback ensued once again.
Royster took the majority of reps in the first three weeks of training camp, therefore Shanahan gave him the nod for the first pre-season game last week in Buffalo, where he tallied 21 yards against a stingy Bills’ front seven.
Helu, by most expectations, was set for his turn to start against Chicago this weekend. However, a recent bout of tendonitis in his Achilles tendon kept the former Cornhusker sidelined for this week along with Hightower, who continues to struggle with his knee. As James Dudko of The Bleacher Report mentioned in his article earlier this month, Hightower has basically missed training camp while letting his ACL heal from last year’s tear. If this were last season, Royster would find himself alone in the backfield as the last healthy member of the trio. However rookie Alfred Morris, who threw his hat into the ring last week after racking up 54 yards in the second half in Buffalo, could vault his way into the mix sooner than expected with another solid performance against the Bears this weekend.
Yes, Mike Shanahan has always, and will continue to use multiple tailbacks in his zone-blocking system. But Washington can ill afford to keep four running backs on the roster while an already battered offensive line lays in desperate need of greater depth. Meanwhile on the defensive side, second-year lineman Chris Neild tore his ACL during Monday’s practice, forcing the ‘Skins to put him on IR.
It seems like only yesterday the Nation’s Capital was buzzing about RGIII coming to town. However, just three weeks remain until Griffin’s official NFL debut. But who will join him in the backfield? My gut tells me Royster and Morris may become Shanahan’s go-to guys, because I have an ill feeling that either Helu or Hightower will end up joining Neild on injured reserve. Yet my hope is I’m wrong, and that Morris will become assigned to the practice squad to build his skills as Royster did last season… It worked out pretty well for him. Hail ‘Skins.
-Todd C. Smith
You can follow Todd C. Smith on Twitter @tcsmitty