Washington Football Team: Unlocking the potential of Antonio Gibson

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

After totaling only 33 total rushes as a college wide receiver, Antonio Gibson made the transition to running back in his rookie year. Gibson became progressively better for the Washington Football Team as the year progressed. He became more adept at hitting the hole at the right time and having a better feel for when the cut-back lane opened up.

Gibson totaled 795 rushing yards on 4.7 yards a carry. He produced this stat line in his first year as a full-time ball carrier in a year where he missed nearly three weeks of the season with a turf toe injury that he suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He displayed his full potential as a runner on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys. He had 20 carries for 115 yards and he waltzed into the endzone three times on Turkey Day.

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Gibson was dominant, displaying improved vision, power, and elite breakaway speed. He gave Washington fans a sneak peek of the sky-high potential he possesses.

However, Gibson still has a ways to go to become a complete running back. And that is what makes him so tantalizing for his coaching staff. In what is quickly becoming an offense flush with weapons, having a running back with the talent of Gibson is exciting.

To unlock the potential of Gibson, there is one adjustment the coaching staff should make. Making this adjustment, combined with Gibson’s expected improvement with the nuances of the position, could truly unleash Antonio Gibson as a three-down weapon.

The Washington Football Team should use Antonio Gibson more as a receiving threat.

Given that Gibson is a former college wide receiver, it would be expected that he would have a high usage rate in the passing game. That expectation was a wrong one with Gibson, at least in his rookie year.

He totaled only 247 yards on 36 receptions. His average depth of target according to Sports Info Solutions was -0.8 yards. All of his receiving yards came after the catch. Gibson’s route tree consisted of mostly swing passes, slip screens, and the occasional angle route. Most of his receptions came behind the original line of scrimmage.

The role many expected for Gibson was given to J.D. McKissic. He totaled 80 receptions on nearly 600 receiving yards. His average depth of target was 1.5 yards, nearly two yards more than Gibson.

In his rookie year, Gibson’s role was defined, he was the primary runner, McKissic was the primary receiver out of the group. This may be because the staff thought McKissic fit the role as a receiver better. Or, the more likely scenario is that the coaching staff did not want to overload Gibson in his rookie year.

Develop one part of his skillset first, and then add more later. With Gibson’s improvement as a runner, it may be time to add more to how he is used within the offense. Gibson is quickly becoming one of the more exciting backs in the league.

If Scott Turner and the rest of the offensive coaching staff unlock his receiving ability, then Gibson becomes a matchup nightmare. When you combine his potential as a receiver, with what McKissic has already proved as a receiver, that is a lethal combo out of the backfield.

Turner should begin to get Gibson more vertical down the field and get Gibson matched up on linebackers. Using him on more deep routes to tap into Gibson’s lethal speed.

With the additions of Curtis Samuel, Adam Humphries and rookie wide receiver Dyami Brown, Gibson may be one too many weapons for the defense to be concerned with.

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With a year under his belt, more weapons being added, and better quarterback play to be expected it is time for Turner to use Antonio Gibson more as a receiver. That is how Washington will unlock the potential of Gibson.