Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan insists he hasnt decided how hes going to handle the teams trio of running backs.Evan Royster hopes to make the decision for him.To win the starting job, though, the second-year Fairfax, Va., native must outperform Roy Helu Jr. and Tim Hightower in the coming weeks.Were all trying to do that, Royster said. So its going to be tough.Indeed, the battle figures to be intense.Helu has a better burst than the others and has stood out through three days of training camp. Hightower is the most experienced, as well as the best pass catcher and blocker, but hes still easing his way back into playing shape after a knee injury cut his 2011 season short.Roysters strengths? Well, singling out what he does well is as difficult as taking him down.Story of my life, he said with a smile. Ive been told my whole life that I wasnt fast enough. But I made it work to this point, so Im just going to keep doing what Ive done the past 15 years.Royster gained 328 yards on 56 attempts as a rookie and averaged a team-best 5.9 yards per carry. He started the final two games of the season, racking up 132 yards, against Minnesota, and 113 against Philadelphia.Asked what he likes about Royster, Shanahan didnt hesitate.You cant tackle him, the coach said. He makes people miss. He knows how to cut and and he knows when to cut.Royster said his familiarity with Shanahans offense has, at times, proven to be an advantage as he adapts to the pro game.I guess Im comfortable with the inside zone, he said. I ran a very similar offense with Coach Tom Verbanic at Westfield High in Chantilly and again at Penn State. Ive just been doing it so long, I feel comfortable.If theres one thing Royster wants to improve upon this season, he said, its his conditioning.The big thing for me at the end of last season was being in game shape, said the 24-year-old, who was used sparingly until mid-December, when he took over for an ailing Helu. I wasnt used to getting out there and taking all those reps, especially in the Philly game when I came out and I was cramping through my whole body. I wasnt prepared for what I needed to do.So thats my focus this year: doing what I need to do be ready for games, he added.And, of course, winning the starting job.
Five wins in a row – it’s almost hard to fathom considering how dire the Redskins season looked after losing to the Dallas Cowboys in September dropped Washington to an 0-2 record. Now, after winning four straight, the ‘Skins are firmly back in the NFC playoff picture and have the chance to tack on another win Sunday in Detroit. The game is indoors at Ford Field so weather won’t be an issue, kickoff is set for 1 p.m., but all the coverage starts on Redskins Kickoff at noon on CSN. These are the storylines we will be watching most:
- Hit the gas – In wins over the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins got out to early 14-0 leads. Only the team then coughed up those leads, allowing both squads back into games that instead should have been blowouts. If Washington can build an early lead on the road will be a big advantage, but they need to continue to pile up points and not let the Lions hang around.
- Cage the Lions – Detroit’s offense is quite effective, in fact the Lions rank No. 12 in the NFL in points-per-game, three spots ahead of the Redskins. QB Matt Stafford is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes and has thrown 14 TDs through six games. The Redskins defense, however, has been nearly dominant in their last two games and hasn’t given up an offensive touchdown in the last seven quarters.
- No Reed option – Diagnosed with a concussion after the win in Baltimore, Redskins tight end Jordan Reed will miss the Lions game. He also missed the Eagles game, which saw the ‘Skins roll up nearly 500 yards of offense. Reed is a dynamic threat at tight end, but without him, veteran Vernon Davis stepped in against Philly and had two catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. Losing Reed is a blow for the ‘Skins, but they should be able to continue to pile up yards and points without him.
- Statistically speaking – There is an interesting disparity looking at the Lions and Redskins offensive stats. Detroit is scoring more points than Washington, yet the Lions are gaining significantly less yards per game and yards per play. Jay Gruden’s squad ranks No. 2 in the NFL in yards per play, Detroit ranks 14th. Washington is tied for 5th in yards per game, the Lions are 18th. Obviously, Sean McVay’s offense is moving the ball better than Detroit, but red zone issues have been consistent for the Redskins. The numbers point to an explosion of touchdowns, could this be the week?
- No (big) mistakes – Last week against the Eagles, the Redskins defense stifled Carson Wentz and held Philly’s offense mostly in check. The sole reason that game was close were big plays – a pick-six touchdown by Malcolm Jenkins after intercepting a Cousins pass and a kick return touchdown. Defensively, the Redskins have significantly improved at eliminating big plays. Against Detroit, special teams and the offense must focus on not giving up big plays or turning the ball over.
Numbers & Notes:
- Opposing offenses have been able to run on the Redskins, but Detroit comes into the game with just the 26th best running attack in the NFL.
- Ryan Kerrigan will make his 87th consecutive start on Sunday – tied for third most among active NFL linebackers. Kerrigan has never missed a start in his career.
- Against Philadelphia, Matt Jones ran for 135 yards, a career high, and the most Redskins rush yards since Alfred Morris went for 139 against the Vikings in November 2013.
- Dustin Hopkins has made 15 field goals this season – 1st in the NFC and tied for first in the NFL.
- On punt returns, Jamison Crowder and the Redskins are averaging 18.8 yards-per-return, which ranks 1st in the NFL.
- The Redskins offense ranks 1st in the NFL with the fewest amount of 3 & Out drives.
- If Kirk Cousins passes for 300 yards on Sunday, that will mark his 15th game with 300 passing yards, and he will take second place in Redskins history for most 300-yard games, moving past Joe Theismann.
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The NFL has fined Redskins tight end Vernon Davis $12,154 for his jump shot touchdown celebration against the Eagles.
Source says Vernon Davis was fined $12,154 for unsportsmanlike conduct - the penalty for shooting the ball like a jumpshot after his TD.— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) October 21, 2016
So, if you're keeping score… Shooting a J after touchdown ($12k) costs you more than shooting an arrow into the crowd ($9k).— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) October 21, 2016
The league had previously fined cornerback Josh Norman $9,115 for pantomiming shooting a bow and arrow after an interception. He said he'd try a beer drinking celebration this week.
On the day Davis was flagged excessive celebration, Jay Gruden told the media that he'd just gone over sample film of illegal celebrations with his players and didn't see anything resembling Davis' jump shot.
The Redskins have ruled Jordan Reed out again for Sunday's matchup with the Lions. Davis is expected to start in his place.
MORE REDSKINS: Doctson could return from IR in Week 15