Football Team

Antonio Gibson wants to head in the right direction — literally

Football Team

Imagine working as a mechanic at a car dealership, but then out of nowhere, you move onto a new, much larger spot — and then you're asked to work in sales. Sure, you understand the basic fundamentals of what your new job requires of you since you've been in the business before, but in terms of the nuances, well, that's a completely different story.

That is (hopefully) an effective way of describing what Antonio Gibson went through in his rookie season with the Washington Football Team. After lining up as a wide receiver in for much of his junior college and NCAA career, Gibson got some exposure at running back in Memphis before being asked to specialize there in the pros. 

Of course, it's not like the concept of carrying the ball out of the backfield was totally new to him; the guy's been playing football all his life, after all, so he's been exposed to it plenty and grasps the essentials of how to get it done. However, he was slotted into the unfamiliar position at the game's ultimate level with very little time to grow accustomed to the change — and that process is absolutely remains in the works, as he described on Monday.

"I still have a lot to learn," Gibson told reporters in Ashburn after a Burgundy and Gold training camp practice. "I feel like running back is still, I'm taking my time with that. I get more into that than I do receiver. I feel like I got wide receiver a little more down pat than running back right now."

 

Despite the hardships of his transition, Gibson still compiled 795 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in 14 contests last year. Because of those impressive stats, he's being tabbed as a player who's poised to break out in 2021.

For that to happen, though, he wants to continue to grow his knowledge in one key area, and while the area may sound like a simple one, he doesn't think it is. 

"Situation," Gibson said. "That is big right now for me. Knowing what down and distance, in the red zone, third and long. Knowing if I need to get north and south or if I need to make a play happen. Just things like that. The small things that will help the game out and help my teammates out. Things of that nature right there."

On one hand, the fact that Gibson was able to average 4.7 yards per attempt in a campaign where he had no rookie minicamp, no OTAs and no preseason is truly exceptional. Yet on the other, there were times in 2020 where he'd either get too anxious when he'd get to the line of scrimmage or try to do too much when it wasn't necessary to be so aggressive.

Either way, he was leaving yards on the table by not making the correct decision, which he's aware of.

"It's kind of frustrating, but that goes with situation," Gibson explained. "Sometimes they get to me, but other than that, like I said, third and short, you know you want to get down. If it’s a long, big-time play, you feel like you can make it happen, make it happen."

Fortunately for the former third-round pick, he's got the bulk of training camp as well as a trio of exhibition matchups ahead of him before the opener, and this time around, he's the unquestioned starter among those lining up behind the quarterback. He also indicated that the toe injury that hobbled him near the end of Washington's playoff run is "getting better."

Those are all factors that would appear to signal that Gibson is going in the right direction as he attempts to become one of the league's most productive, young stars. As long as he ensures he's literally heading in the right direction beginning in Week 1, odds are he will get there.

"Trust your eyes, trust your feet," Gibson said. "It kind of just happens with instincts. Just trust yourself. We are all here for a reason, we all got the ability to do it. So, when you get there, trust what you’re thinking and go with it."