Fans of the Washington Football Team were preparing for an Antonio Gibson breakout against the Carolina Panthers after he turned in arguably his best performance of the year in the upset win over Tampa Bay.
While Gibson finished with an impressive stat line, his fumbling issues reared their ugly head at the worst possible time in the first quarter.
The Panthers already opened up a 7-0 lead on their opening drive, and Washington was knocking on the door before Gibson coughed up the football at Carolina’s 13-yard line. Like we said, tough to have worse timing than that.
The fact Washington overcame that gaffe just speaks to their resilience, but it doesn’t change the fact that Gibson now has more fumbles (five) than any running back in the league. Three of those have resulted in turnovers.
Simply put, it’s a problem that needs to be nipped in the bud.
Clearly aware of this, Ron Rivera speculated a potential solution to help Gibson get past this glaring stumbling block.
Ron Rivera wants to help Washington running back Antonio Gibson fix his fumbling issues.
"“Just continue to work on it and not make it a blown out, blown up situation,” Rivera said in regard to his advice for Gibson. “Reinforce protecting the ball, not just saying, ‘Don’t fumble it.’ You know what I’m saying? I mean, that’s the truth of the matter is we don’t want him worrying about fumbling. We want to worry about protecting, carrying it properly the way it needs to.”“It is a mindset. It is all about understanding how to communicate my opinion to a player, so that he’s thinking about the important thing of protecting the ball, as opposed to not fumbling the ball.”"
Rivera makes some good points here. The last thing Washington needs is Gibson overcompensating to the point where he’s more focused on not fumbling than actually ripping off productive runs.
The key is getting Gibson to run like he did in the second half on Sunday, when he compiled nearly 80% of his season-high 95 rushing yards, while also eliminating the fear of him coughing up the pigskin. How can Rivera do that?
Well, altering his grip would be a good place to start. The second-year RB rarely seems to have a firm grip on the football. It doesn’t matter if you’re built like Marshawn Lynch or Darren Sproles. Regardless of your size/strength, a compromised grip makes it just as easy for defenders to jar the ball loose.
Gibson’s learned that the hard way. Five fumbles (three lost) through 10 games just isn’t sustainable. Another turnover, especially a costly one, could land the 23-year-old a permanent spot on the bench.
After all, Rivera had no problem benching him during an important stretch of Sunday’s game. Not to mention, Jaret Patterson and JD McKissic have no worries in that department and have produced when called upon this year.
This topic isn’t going away anytime soon. Gibson has all the tools at his disposal to be the future of Washington’s backfield. However, if he doesn’t find a way to protect the football, those hopes could come crashing down as soon as this offseason.