When he was taken in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Antonio Gibson had no clue what direction the Washington Football Team would take him. A wide receiver at Memphis, Gibson’s time running the football was mostly used on special teams.
One year later, he’s looking to build off the success of his first NFL season as a full-time standout in the backfield.
Washington’s offense is looking to expand and become more multi-dimensional. With the additions of Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown and Adam Humphries, coach Ron Rivera and coordinator Scott Turner will implement a heavier passing attack for new QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Gibson is expected to have a major role in the passing attack. That’s an area WFT running backs coach Randy Jordan knows the second-year runner needs little help improving on.
“I think the biggest thing for him is to continue to progress, not only as a runner but as a pass-catcher out of the backfield,” Jordan said. “I think that’s something we haven’t really tapped into a lot. I think the biggest thing, for him, is utilizing his ability to catch the ball because he has caught the ball in college.”
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Jordan was pleased with Gibson’s progression last season as Washington’s lead back. Week by week, it felt like a new piece of the puzzle was added to the finished product. Soon, Gibson was feeling comfortable with all thrown at him.
Gibson exploded onto the field by midseason for Washington, becoming one of the game’s top hybrid offensive players of 2020. By the season’s end, he led all rookies in rushing touchdowns (11) and finished fifth in rushing yards (795).
“It’s like night and day from the first time that he started to play the running back position full-time,” Jordan said on Gibson’s advancement. “He still has a lot of tools. He’s doing a really great job for us so far, and I’m just looking for him to continue to stack practices and continue to perfect his craft.”
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Adding Samuel gives Washington two players of the hybrid type. The difference is their roles in college. Samuel, during his time with the Ohio State Buckeyes, primarily saw his snaps at running back. Gibson, a key member of Memphis’ AAC title run in 2019, lined up at wide receiver.
In two seasons with Memphis, Gibson made 44 catches for 834 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also averaged 19 yards per catch and used his agility to make cornerbacks and safeties miss tackle attempts.
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Washington finished 25th in passing last fall. The team only had one wide receiver who finished with over 1,000 yards (Terry McLaurin) while fellow running back J.D. McKissic finished third in receptions.
Gibson’s hybrid skills allow him to be a dangerous weapon each down. Jordan’s goal is to now make sure his guy hasn’t forgotten how to catch passes.
“One thing jokingly he said in a meeting one time was that … he was like, ‘Dang, I almost forgot how to play the receiver position,’ so that’s a good thing from a running back’s standpoint,” Jordan said. “I think, first and foremost, he’s a football player. The more he [plays as a receiver], the more opportunities he has to do it, he’ll get better at it.”
Fitzpatrick was brought in to stabilize the passing attack. McLaurin, Samuel and Gibson all have hands, but they also have speed. Each player ran at least a 4.44 40-time during their respective Pro Days.
Samuel will be used in a multitude of ways. McLaurin has become a do-it-all target, but still possess home-run speed. Gibson’s rookie success has his confidence at an all-time high.
If Gibson’s hands still work - we are sure they do - then Washington’s offense will truly expand, causing fits for defensive coordinators on Sundays.
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