Gibson Goes for the Grand

Jun 10, 2021; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Football Team cornerback Linden Stephens (36) carries the ball between Washington Football Team running back Payton Barber (25) and Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (24) during drills as part of minicamp at Inova Sports Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When the Washington Football Team selected Antonio Gibson out of the University of Memphis with their third-round pick last year, he was still a relatively unseasoned player at the running back position. However, all he did in his rookie season was produce, as he led the team with 795 rushing yards.

Now, as he prepares to enter his sophomore campaign in 2021, he hopes to obtain a high-water mark of 1000 rushing yards for the season. Even though he converted to running back from wide receiver, he still has that receiving background, and 1000 yards receiving in today’s NFL seems to be a more accomplishable feat than 1000 yards rushing.

And the goal is something Gibson has never accomplished before, at least per an article recently noted. “A wideout at Memphis, Gibson gaining 1000 yards on the ground for Washington wouldn’t just be a first for him in the NFL but dating back to his college days. And hitting the 1000-yard mark is an accomplishment seen far less in today’s NFL when the passing game is more prevalent than ever and running backs are part of a committee more often than a workhorse. Only nine players hit 1000 yards in 2020, so Gibson’s aim for the accomplishment will be as much about as his opportunities.”

Driven to Greatness

While he was happy with becoming a budding star at the position and winning the NFC East with Washington last season, Gibson fell short of his goal of a grand in the rushing yard department by about 205 yards. Coming into a new campaign in 2021, the former Memphis Tiger is bursting at the seams with aspirations to achieve the mark.

“That was something I really wanted,” he said. “This year, I’m priding myself on surpassing that.”

However, he may have more competition for carries this season, as the team brings back J.D. McKissic as his backup and also bringing in versatile H-back/wide receiver Curtis Samuel from Carolina. Gibson will also have a new primary signal-caller under center, as Washington acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency from the Miami Dolphins.

Needs to Avoid Injury Bug

Health could also play a factor in Gibson’s pursuit of the coveted 1000-yard milestone in 2021, as he missed a couple of games in his rookie year due to a turf toe injury.

But his coach, Ron Rivera, has high praise and hopes to see his second-year running back do well.

“You can tell he’s matured, got a better feel and understanding,” he said. “Those natural instincts that you look for, the intangibles that guys that have been playing the positions their whole career naturally have. You start to see those come to light with Antonio. It’s exciting.”

The transition from college to the NFL at times can be overwhelming. For Gibson, he was one of the rookies that had a tougher transition through the COVID-ravaged 2020 campaign.

“Last year was a learning process for me,” he said. “I got the hang of it as the season went on and I started showing progress.”

With a solid rookie season and an injury behind him, Antonio Gibson is setting a lofty goal of 1000 rushing yards for his sophomore campaign in 2021.