The Gut Check No.525: Antonio Gibson Is Raw...And That's Impressive

Matt Waldman examines the rookie performances of Antonio Gibson and shares his outlook for Washington's running back for the rest of 2020 and beyond. 

Running Blind

Antonio Gibson might as well be running with a blindfold over his eyes.

Considering that he's on track for 1,134 yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns, it's an impressive testament to Gibson's raw materials as an NFL player. And there's no doubt that Gibson is raw.

It would be more accurate than one may realize to say that the first-year running back out of Memphis is a first-year running back. Although he technically played running back at Memphis and other stops prior, most teams used Gibson as an athlete—a gadget player whose role was dependent on how easily an offense could leverage his 4.3-speed, his size and strength, his open-field running, and his excellent hand-eye coordination.

I graded Gibson separately as a running back and a receiver for the 2020 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. I shared a little bit of my pre-draft thoughts on Gibson as a potential receiver to non-subscribers, here.

Based on his college tape, Gibson fit best with a gap-heavy run scheme that limited his diagnostic choices before hitting a hole so the offense could maximize his elite athletic traits. Washington runs a lot of gap plays, so the initial fit made sense in April, especially with Adrian Peterson and Peyton Barber in the fold as veterans that Gibson could observe in practice and pick their brains in meetings.

By summer's end, Washington jettisoned Peterson and opted for Gibson as the starter. After watching a few weeks of the regular season, I saw a back who identified tight creases and could often stay alive long enough to access them as alternatives to what the defense initially stopped.

I also saw a lot of yards left on the field. Nearly two months later, I revisited Gibson's tape and it's consistent with what I initially saw: The rookie is getting by on limited knowledge as the foundation for expressing superior athletic skill.

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