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Antonio Gibson’s Fumbling Is Officially A Problem

  • The Draft Network
  • December 14, 2021
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A primary wideout, turned Weapon X, turned running back during his days at Memphis, Antonio Gibson has found himself within Ron Rivera’s doghouse at a time the burgundy and gold need him most. A big-bodied back who’s amassed the most rushing yards outside of the Indianapolis Colts’ Jonathan Taylor since Week 10, Gibson’s inability to hold onto the football has placed a massive cloud of uncertainty as the future bell-cow back Rivera, and offensive coordinator Scott Turner, thought he could be moving into the tail end of the season.

While he’s enjoyed his fair share of success, microscoping Gibson’s skill set is a tough ask—he’s everything that scouts desire in a modern-day ball-carrier, but he doesn’t do anything outstandingly well. Along with his prowess inside the hashes, his primary success out of Memphis came in the passing game, where his role as a ball-carrier played second-fiddle to his presence as a pass-catcher. 

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, when you think about today’s most dominant weapons out of the backfield, the smaller frames of the Christian McCaffrey or the likes of Alvin Kamara or Austin Ekeler often headline the group. But for Gibson, a bigger back with bigger punch, his frame presents an entirely different beast when attempting to game plan against him for 60 minutes. He can wear you down inside the tackles, run through wimpy tacklers, and when you bring an extra man in the box, he’ll slip out of the backfield and take a screen pass to the house. And while he’s shown each of those abilities at times so far in his career, his inability to secure the football within the highest leverage situations of the football game this fall has been inexcusable.

Outside of missing kicks, the easiest way to find yourself holding a clipboard at the NFL level is by putting the ball on the ground. And while it often happens amid the chaos that ensues when bodies near collision and defenders continue to evolve with intricate accuracy in punching the rock out, when it happens routinely in the shadow of your own goal line, or inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, or amid a crucial scoring drive, it raises a major cause for concern. No matter how fast you can cut the corner or what you can do with the ball in space, at any level, an inability to secure the football in tight confines often leads to a decrease in snaps, as Gibson has experienced far too often in just his second season. 

With five fumbles this fall, Washington’s former third-round selection has totaled the most among any running back in football, two more than Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook. Dating back to 2018, among all ball-carriers, Gibson sits among the top 12 in fumbles accumulated, despite his status as a collegiate athlete for both the 2018 and 2019 campaigns. What’s even more concerning is that Gibson is the only player to have six or more fumbles lost in fewer than 30 career games played among active running backs—the names ahead of him in Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, Chris Carson, and Cook, have each totaled at least 45 career games played in that same time frame, nearly double Gibson’s output (27).

On the other hand, however, while Washington has continued to lose bodies in the trenches, with the injury bug making its way under center and to the outside toward do-it-all wideout Terry McLaurin on Sunday, the onus on Gibson to shoulder the offensive workload, ball security issues and all, remains paramount to Washington’s success in the final month of the regular season.

For Rivera, although Gibson’s mishaps have ushered in a scenario where each carry is a toy with fate as he looks to captain his team to a playoff berth, the head coach has no choice but to keep feeding the mouth that has bitten his hand far too often this fall.

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