Week 15 Illuminates the Importance of Antonio Gibson

Antonio Gibson
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The Washington Football Team’s furious fourth-quarter comeback fell short on Sunday as they lost to the Seattle Seahawks 20-15 at FedEx Field. Washington fell behind early, down 20-3 heading into the fourth quarter, but Dwayne Haskins improved late to bring Washington within five with help from Montez Sweat and Daron Payne. Haskins was driving on the final drive, but two late sacks stymied Washington’s bid for a fifth-straight win. Despite the comeback by Washington, one thing is clear: they desperately need Antonio Gibson back in the lineup.

Washington threw the ball 55 times on Sunday, while the running backs had 17 carries for just 56 yards. Most of this can be attributed to falling behind early, but the lack of balance was prevalent throughout the game. J.D. McKissic is an excellent pass-catching running back and a threat to run the football. However, he is far from an every down, between the tackles runner. Peyton Barber’s role has been relegated to short-yardage situations, a role that he excels in. Help is on the way for Washington, as they signed Lamar Miller off the Chicago Bears practice squad, but Antonio Gibson’s return from a turf toe injury would be critical for Washington to clinch the NFC East this week against the Carolina Panthers

The Importance of Antonio Gibson to the Washington Football Team

A Physical Runner Between the Tackles

One of the most unexpected revelations for Washington fans was Gibson’s ability to run between the tackles. His vision has improved remarkably over the course of his rookie season, especially on inside zone concepts. Against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Gibson tore the Cowboys defense apart on these inside zone plays. 

Washington has been missing his blend of physicality and speed as Barber is more of a bruiser, while McKissic is closer to a third-down back. McKissic has played well in similar plays, running for 68 yards on 11 carries against the San Francisco 49ers, but he doesn’t have the frame to receive 20-25 carries per game like Gibson. 

Anotnio Gibson Provides Firepower to a Lackluster Offensive Group

Since Terry McLaurin has been quiet the past few weeks and Steven Sims Jr. has been plagued with drops, Washington hasn’t had an explosive threat on offense. McKissic offers a similar skill set, but he has been more of a “chain mover” on third down check downs. Logan Thomas was exceptional against the Seahawks with 13 catches for 101 yards. However, Thomas isn’t a dynamic playmaker like Antonio Gibson. This season, Gibson has four rushes over 20 yards. The other two rushes over 20 yards are by wide receivers Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gandy-Golden

Although Washington moved the football in the third quarter, they had just two plays over 20 yards and zero on the ground. Gibson would immediately make an impact in this regard and open up opportunities for receivers down the field with linebackers looking into the backfield on play-action or RPO concepts. 

Less Pressure on the Quarterback

With uncertainty at the quarterback position, Washington needs a strong running game to complement Dwayne Haskins or Alex Smith. Haskins threw the ball 55 times against Seattle, which is not a winning formula for Washington. If Gibson were to return, then Haskins (assuming Smith won’t play against Carolina) could have play-action opportunities down the field if they establish the running game. It would take the pressure off Haskins or Smith, limiting the potential for major mistakes. In the first two games of Washington’s four-game winning streak, Smith threw just 51 passes combined. After Gibson was injured in Pittsburgh, he was forced to throw the ball 46 times in a come from behind victory.

Gibson’s impact on Washington’s offense may arguably be as big as Alex Smith due to Washington’s lack of every down options (excluding Lamar Miller) and the inexperience of Dwayne Haskins.

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