It was a successful rookie season for Antonio Gibson.
The Washington Football Team selected Gibson out of Memphis in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. After seeing how the Tigers used Gibson during his time in college, it was assumed that the WFT would use him as a hybrid player out of the backfield. That was not the case in year one.
Gibson was used primarily as the early-down back in Washington. He carried the ball 170 times or 795 yards and 11 touchdowns. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and improved as the season went on. In year two, Gibson has a chance to be used more as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
The overall growth of Gibson at the running back position is something that has head coach Ron Rivera and running backs coach Randy Jordan excited.
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"You can tell he's matured, got a better feel and understanding," Rivera said, per John Keim of ESPN. "Those natural instincts that you look for, the intangibles that guys that have been playing the positions their whole career naturally have. You start to see those come to light with Antonio. It's exciting."
Gibson will enter the season as the primary running back for the WFT. J.D. McKissic will continue to be used as a third-down back who can catch the ball out of the backfield. This is a role that Washington is hoping Gibson can improve upon.
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In 2020, Gibson finished with 36 catches in 14 games. At Memphis, Gibson finished with 44 catches compared to 33 carries.
"The biggest thing for him is continuing to progress, not only as a runner but as a pass-catcher," Jordan said. "That's something we haven't really tapped into a lot."
"The more opportunities he has to do it, the better he'll get at it."
Gibson missed two games last season with a turf toe injury. This is not something to be concerned about heading into the fall.
Washington made some additions to the offense in the offseason. Curtis Samuel and Adam Humphries were signed to improve the receiving corps. Charles Leno Jr. and Samuel Cosmi were added to an offensive line that has a chance to repeat success from last season. And of course, Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a one-year deal to be the quarterback.
With all of the additions, Washington is hopeful that its offense can take a step forward. Gibson could end up being the most important piece of the offense once the season begins.