Antonio Gibson proving he’s a top 10 RB in the NFL

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - OCTOBER 10: Antonio Gibson #24 of the Washington Football Team runs with the ball as Pete Werner #20 of the New Orleans Saints defends during the first half at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MARYLAND - OCTOBER 10: Antonio Gibson #24 of the Washington Football Team runs with the ball as Pete Werner #20 of the New Orleans Saints defends during the first half at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

If I told you last year that the Washington Football Team’s leading rusher would be a player who only had 33 career rushing attempts in college, you would have thought I was crazy.

But here we are with Antonio Gibson showing that he deserves respect as one of the top ten running backs in the league.

In 2020, many fans were hoping Derrius Guice would be Washington’s leading rusher. After he was cut, the fallback option was future Hall of Famer, Adrian Peterson.

But, nope, he too was cut in favor of a player who spent the majority of his college career playing receiver and had spent the first two years of his college career at the JUCO level.

A player who was an anomaly for many scouts. He was referred to as “a walking explosive play” with  “homerun hitting ability and an extremely high ceiling” but in the next breath called someone who “should be viewed as a potential starter by Year 3.”

For other scouts, he was seen as having no value above being a back-end running back that could contribute on special teams.

"And if he’s a second or third tailback, change-of-pace guy that can return kicks for you, he’s going to have some value there. He’ll be a coverage player on special teams unit, but I don’t ever see him being a No. 1 tailback."

Yet here we are two years later and Gibson is making a name for himself around the league, serving as the best running back Washington has had since Alfred Morris.

Washington sure knows how to find those mid-to-late round running back gems. Morris was drafted in the sixth round and was overshadowed by RGIII throughout his career, yet still went on to become the fifth-leading rusher in franchise history in only four seasons.

Gibson was selected in the third round of the 2020 draft, with his selection being overshadowed by the Chase Young selection at No. 2 overall. And all he has done is prove even the most glowing scouts wrong.

Many expected Gibson to take some time to get acquainted at the running back position, but in his first year, he led all rookies with 11 rushing touchdowns. Not only that, but he had the sixth-most broken tackles in the NFL and had the second-lowest carries per broken tackle in the league.

Not bad for someone that was in his first full year learning the running back position.

Although the 2021 season started off a bit slower, Gibson has picked it up during Washington’s three-game win streak. Over those three games, he has 72 carries, which is the most in the NFL during that span, and that is in spite of being benched for over a quarter after fumbling in the red zone against the Panthers.

How did he react to being benched? Well, he came out in the second half and had 14 carries for 76 yards, finishing with 95 rushing yards. Coach Rivera was clearly impressed with how he bounced back.

"You want that resilience, and he’s a young man that’s just going to get better and better the more he develops and grows."

Gibson is currently 7th in the league in rushing yards and has 353 yards after contact, 6th most in the league. Not only has the coaching staff seen improvements in his game, but fellow mid-round draft pick and overachiever, Terry McLaurin has seen Gibson’s game evolve since 2020.

"Antonio has continued to improve and the number one thing I’ve seen him improve on the most is his yards after contact in the way he’s running behind his pads. You know, it’s not the first guys taking him down, those shoestring tackles that you may have saw last year. There’s not many of those anymore.He just has to continue to protect the ball and run like he’s running because behind that o-line, the way they’re humming right now, we’re gonna have some chance to hit some runs."

McLaurin said that after the Panthers game, and what did Gibson do in the next game against the Seahawks?

Not only did he set a career-high with 36 touches, but he ran for 111 yards, with 97 coming after contact, and added in 7 receptions for 35 yards.

And the biggest thing, he held on to the football. That’s called responding to coaching.

The Seahawks game was one of the first times Washington has featured Gibson in a Christian McCaffrey-type role, and the running back showed out.

This was Gibson’s first 100+ rushing yards game of the season, and it came with Washington’s fourth-string center manning the offensive line.

With J.D. McKissic exiting early with an injury, Gibson got additional opportunities in the passing game and he showed off his YAC skills, making future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner whiff on a takedown.

Did I mention he’s doing all this while dealing with a hairline fracture in his shin?

Has that hindered him this season? I’m sure it has as he has had to miss practices to rest, but it hasn’t prevented him from embracing the big hits, as he’s tallied the third-most broken tackles in the NFL this season (18).

After the Seahawks game, Gibson was asked what his college self would think about him getting 20+ carries in the NFL, and he had a one-word answer.


That is exactly how those that doubted Gibson are looking right about now.

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