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Antonio Gibson Losing Starting Job with Washington Commanders?

Antonio Gibson might not be the focal point of Washington's rushing attack in 2022.

Maybe it’s nothing. Perhaps it’s something to monitor. Either way, Tuesday’s practice for the Washington Commanders came with a surprise in the backfield.

Third-year running back Antonio Gibson worked with the  first-, second- and third-team offense for the first time since joining Washington in 2020. He also was seen doing drills on special teams — a role not usually demanded for starting-cailber running backs. 

Along with Gibson, third-round rookie Brian Robinson Jr. and veteran J.D. McKissic worked primarily with the first- and second-team unit. Robinson is coming off a productive outing in the Commanders’ 23-21 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers on Saturday at home.

McKissic, a pass-catching back, also saw more carries as a runner than Gibson. 

“We want to be able to use all of our players,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said of Gibson’s status.

Gibson’s season isn’t off to the best start. On Saturday during the team’s second drive, the college-receiver-turned-running back fumbled a carry on first down, leading to a recovery by Carolina in Washington’s 22-yard line, and then a TD.

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"You can't waste a possession; if you fumble the ball that's a waste of a possession,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said. “The first job is to protect the ball. It's something that has to be fixed.”

Fumbles have been a concern in the past for Gibson. Last year, he was credited with five fumbles, three of which led to turnovers. Gibson also has seemed hesitant in practice, and Rivera has taken notice of his approach.

"Antonio's got to run harder," Rivera told reporters Saturday. "When he starts to shuffle and go sideways, that's when he struggles."

Gibson is coming off back-to-back seasons with over 1,000 total scrimmage yards. His vision, awareness and ability to make cuts in space are important elements to Washington’s rushing attack.

Robinson, however, could be vying for more first-team reps. He continues to impress the coaching staff throughout training camp and made the most of his carries Saturday at FedEx Field. In two quarters, Robinson recorded six attempts for 26 yards and scored a 1-yard touchdown to begin the second quarter.

“Today, I felt like I didn't time up on some of my reads on some of my runs," Robinson said Saturday. "Even though they looked good from the outside, I know I could’ve ran some plays a bit better. I just have to be a bit more patient in my run game. I just got to clean it up and that will help me perform better.”

Washington could elect to expand Robinson’s rep count Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.