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.
The Redskins have let go of two high-priced veterans as they move towards reducing their roster to 75 by today’s 4 p.m. deadline, according to multiple reports.
Released were linebacker Perry Riley, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 and had been a starter since midway through the 2011 season, and defensive lineman Stephen Paea, signed as a free agent in 2015. CSNmidatlantic.com was able to confirm Paea and Riley took to Twitter to announce his own release.
Paea signed a four-year, $21 million contract last year. He was expected to step in and become a starter and a force on the defensive line right away. But he struggled and spent the last part of the season on injured reserve.
This year Paea was relatively healthy but he found himself down near the bottom of the depth chart and he never was able to climb back up. He was schedule to make a $3.3 million salary. His release saves the Redskins a net of $3.4 million this year but they will face a $2.5 million dead cap hit in 2017.
Riley wasn’t able to beat out Mason Foster for the starting job this year and apparently the team figured that his $4 million salary was too much for a backup.
Riley’s release saves the team $4 million against the cap with about $1.6 million in dead cap.
MORE REDSKINS: A compressed learning schedule for Redskins' Sudfeld
The Redskins hit the practice field today, suddenly finding themselves on a compressed schedule. Their preseason finale against the Bucs has been moved up from Thursday to Wednesday and now the backups who are looking to put on a good showing to stay employed in the NFL, either with the Redskins or on another team, have 24 hours less to prepare.
Here’s what we’re looking for at Redskins Park today:
—The shortened schedule will affect Nate Sudfeld the most. Jay Gruden said that the rookie quarterback will start against the Bucs and play the whole game. Yesterday Sudfeld talked about all of the play changes and other calls he will have to make it at the line of scrimmage. He now has considerably less time to become comfortable with the calls.
—Will Josh Doctson practice? He sent out a tweet last night that made it sound like he was going to be removed from the PUP list. Today might be the day; it’s the last practice for nearly a week and they might want to get him out there, perhaps push his Achilles just a bit, and then give him a few days to recover.
—How about Spencer Long? He picked a bad time to get injured, just when it looked like he might hang on to the starting left guard job. Now Shawn Lauvao steps in and, if he stays healthy, he might not step out. As with Doctson, the timing makes it difficult. With just one practice and the possibility that Sudfeld and the backups will get a lot of the snaps, does Long press to get back today? Or rest today and get ready for preparations for the Steelers next week, even if that creates the risk that he will be preparing with the second team.
Looking at a weather forecast map that has a yet-unnamed tropical depression set to wreak havoc on the Tampa area starting Thursday afternoon, the Bucs organization called an audible. Working with the NFL and the Redskins, they decided to move the preseason game that was schedule to be played on Thursday to Wednesday.
5am Update: Still a tropical depression. Expected to strengthen to tropical storm as it heads near FL's Big Bend. pic.twitter.com/h04qAfhl6L— Leigh Spann (@WFLALeigh) August 30, 2016
It was really their only choice. A little bad weather doesn’t stop a football game but when things get to the point where the safety of spectators could be in danger and staging the game would tie up police and emergency personnel who would be needed elsewhere you have to make the decision to move it.
Postponing it until Friday was a nonstarter. In addition to the logistics of hotels that may be booked and possible cleanup from the storm going on, NFL teams cut their rosters to 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday. That would leave the Redskins and Bucs coaches very little time to make their final evaluations.
When the Redskins announced the time change they also noted that their annual Welcome Home Luncheon will be held as scheduled on Wednesday. Although they haven’t yet announced their plans it appears that they will go straight from the event to the airport. They will get off of the plane in Tampa, bus to the stadium, play the game, then get back on the bus to the airport, and head back to Dulles.
This all creates a bit of a disruption to everyone’s schedule but if it’s going to happen, it’s better for it to happen at this time of year. Teams really aren’t in any sort of routine now with preseason games scheduled at varying times during the week. There is minimal concern for playing games too close together since most of the players who will participate in the game tomorrow played sparingly last Friday against the Bills.
MORE REDSKINS: Who has the upper hand at left guard?