Last month, while in the process of outlining a “best case scenario” for the Washington Commanders in 2022, I called for using Antonio Gibson in a substantially different way than Washington had been using him for the past two years:
I’ve said it elsewhere on the board, but I believe that the drafting of Brian Robinson allows Scott Turner to optimize - rather than maximize - the use of Antonio Gibson in his offense. Last year, Gibson averaged over 16 rushing attempts and 3 reception targets per game. In my opinion, that’s far too much utilization for a guy who basically hadn’t played running back until coming to the NFL. I’d far prefer to see him utilized like Cordarelle Patterson was last year, averaging about 10 carries and 4 targets per game. If that results in Gibson netting a couple hundred less yards from scrimmage over the season, so be it.
After a fumbilitis flare up, some poor decision making on the ground, and an impressive showing by rookie Brian Robinson, it seems like Gibson’s firm hold on the RB1 spot has been seriously shaken.
I'm not sure what made Antonio Gibson bubble this outside rather than pressing and cutting back to a likely house call, but I'd bet the Commanders coaching staff had a lot to say about this in meetings.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) August 15, 2022
Brian Robinson Jr., on the other hand... pic.twitter.com/cZndk0elea
So what might it look like to transition Gibson from a workhorse back to a dual-threat weapon more along the lines of a Patterson?
In college, at Tennessee, Patterson was used primarily as a wide receiver, with some utilization in the rush game, and significant usage in the return game
Coincidentally, that’s almost exactly how Gibson was used at Memphis his senior season.
During his first 8 years in the league, Patterson earned tons of accolades, but it was overwhelmingly for his performance in the return game. He’s been a first team All Pro four times and second team All Pro three times, even with fairly pedestrian numbers from scrimmage.
In 2021, however, the Falcons got Patterson substantially involved in the run game, giving him nearly 10 rushing attempts per game, in addition to about 4 receiving targets per game, all the while having him as the team’s primary kickoff returner. Consequently, Patterson almost doubled his previous career high yards from scrimmage, topping out at over 1,160 yards rushing and receiving.
What becomes apparent from watching Patterson’s 2021 highlights (above), are a number of differences from the way in which Gibson was used by Washington:
- Patterson was split out as a wide receiver often and with considerable success. As a result, his yards per reception were about 40% greater than Gibson’s.
- The Falcons frequently got the ball to Patterson in space, often with a dump off pass, close to the line of scrimmage, where he could do his most damage.
- As a running back, Patterson was nearly always most effective running north-south, through the center of the line, as opposed to spending time trying to run around the edge of the line, unless the ball was pitched to him in the backfield.
- Patterson put up about 88% of the aggregate offensive numbers Gibson did in about 78% of the offensive snaps.
- Patterson continued to be a dangerous weapon in the kick return game.
What Might this Mean for Gibson?
It’s my contention that in order for Antonio Gibson to be used more effectively, he needs to be used differently, and, in some senses, less. The addition of Brian Robinson in the draft opens that possibility up.
His conventional carries should be dropped by, at least, around 1⁄3 - with Robinson picking up much of the difference. A significant number of his receptions should come while lined up as a wide receiver, likely most often in the slot, where he can get the ball close to the line of scrimmage, with some separation, and use his elusiveness to his advantage. And finally, Gibson should be deployed as a kickoff returner (and, perhaps, a punt returner) some this pre-season to see if he’s able to perform more effectively than our pretty weak, current, options.
If you think any of those things can’t be done effectively, you need to take a look at Gibson’s college highlight reel.
How do you think the Commanders should use Antonio Gibson?
This poll is closed
Just like they’ve always used him.
As a multi-faceted weapon.
As a bench warmer.