Antonio Gibson has all the tools to become a star running back for the Washington Football Team. All except ball security. Persistent fumbles are undermining Gibson’s bid to be the workhorse his coaches can trust to close out games.
Antonio Gibson’s Fumble Issues Are Costly for Washington Football Team
Gibson’s issues holding onto the ball have become more than just a minor annoyance. In fact, he’s on an unwanted streak of putting the pigskin on the ground. His latest faux pas occurred during Week 14’s 27-20 defeat to NFC East rivals the Dallas Cowboys.
The turnover increased Gibson’s undesirable tally of giveaways in key moments, according to Sam Fortier of the Washington Post:
Antonio Gibson's sixth fumble this season is a killer for Washington's momentum.
Gibson's four lost fumbles have come in bad spots:
1. WAS 4 vs. LAC
2. WAS 34 vs. KC
3. CAR 13 at CAR
4. WAS 25 vs. DAL just now
— Sam Fortier (@Sam4TR) December 12, 2021
This latest fumble happened when Washington had cut the gap to 24-8 in the third quarter. A defense beset by injuries then forced a quick punt when defensive tackle Daron Payne sacked Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Momentum had swung firmly back to a team that had been shutout in the first half at FedExField.
Gibson put paid to any momentum, and in the process, he showed why he’s still far from unchallenged in Washington’s backfield. There’s a reason why offensive coordinator Scott Turner often turns to third-down back J.D. McKissic in the red zone. McKissic is only 5’10” and 195 pounds, but he’s more trustworthy than Gibson in the area of the field that matters most.
Earlier this month, Derrell Owens wrote about how McKissic, who is a pending free agent, is a player Washington should bring back for 2022. It’s a good idea, but so is finding an every-down back to challenge Gibson for the lead role.
Head coach Ron Rivera hasn’t been afraid to sit Gibson down when fumbling has become a problem this season. He handed the rushing chores to Jonathan Williams in the fourth quarter against Dallas. Williams scored from a yard out, but he’s playing on his fifth team since 2016.
Jaret Patterson, an undrafted rookie who shone during preaseason, is another alternative. That Gibson is still being challenged by unheralded players speaks volumes about how turnovers are undermining his reputation and development.
Gibson Should be Washington’s Ultimate Offensive Weapon
Not being able to protect the ball is casting doubt about Gibson’s potential, despite his numbers improving. He’s already rushed for 836 yards, up on the 795 he managed as a rookie in 2020, per the league’s official site.
The same source has noted Gibson’s yards per carry average this year (3.9) is down from the 4.7 he managed last season. Meanwhile, his five rushing touchdowns this season are a shadow of the 11 he scored as a rookie.
Those discrepancies will likely keep Gibson from realising his dream of becoming a more versatile weapon in Turner’s offense:
Antonio Gibson wants to be a true offensive weapon pic.twitter.com/zBWtTRScHs
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 10, 2021
The irony is Gibson has most of the tools to become another Cordarrelle Patterson or Deebo Samuel. Like Patterson, he is a former wide receiver who has converted to running back. Gibson’s time playing wideout at Memphis means he could still be a part of the outside passing game, the way Samuel is for the San Francisco 49ers.
Frankly, Turner needs to move Gibson around more often and expand the ways he gets the ball. Using some of the jet sweeps and Wildcat looks that have made Samuel a star wouldn’t hurt.
The problem is a player has to have the trust of his coaches to take on this kind of role. Gibson doesn’t warrant that trust yet, and not just because of his fumbling problems.
There’s also room for improvement in pass protection, a weakness Micah Parsons and the Cowboys exploited in Week 14:
Good scheme by Dallas, forces RB Antonio Gibson to try and step up and block Parsons. Match up goes as expected and Parsons gets another sack pic.twitter.com/RV4acaWFc1
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) December 12, 2021
Missing blocking assignments and committing costly turnovers is just bad football. Those kind of mistakes override talent.
Gibson has to rid his performances of those errors, starting against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday. The game has been moved because of Washington’s issues with COVID-19, but Gibson is one of the few definite actives for a contest with major playoff implications.
It’s the perfect moment to protect the ball and rebuild trust.
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