In his first two campaigns with the Washington Football Team, Antonio Gibson has had plenty of running back moments and running back stretches. But in the Week 18 finale in New York, Gibson finally put together what he called a "running back game."
The stats from the victory over the Giants certainly back up Gibson's statement. On Sunday, he turned 21 carries into a career-high 146 yards and a touchdown. In doing so, he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the year, becoming one of just seven players to accomplish that feat in the regular season.
The numbers, however, aren't the only proof of Gibson's growing mastery of the position, one that he's had to adjust to in the pros. The way he ran — patient at first and then decisive, protecting the ball at all times and creative once he got past the line of scrimmage — was no doubt what Ron Rivera hoped to eventually see when Washington drafted Gibson and placed him in the backfield as opposed to out wide as a receiver in 2020.
When reflecting on the performance in a Monday press conference, Gibson described what allowed him to dominate at MetLife Stadium.
"I feel like I was comfortable," Gibson said. "I took everything that I learned over these last two seasons and it clicked... I feel like just being consistent, keeping everything that in the back of my head of what I learned week in and out and just applying it to the game."
Rivera picked up on Gibson's increased conviction as well.
"When you see a guy want to get up quickly and get back in the huddle, you can tell the guy has really got a little bit of a rhythm going and some confidence with that," Rivera said on Sunday following the team's win.
Because of where Gibson was drafted (the third round, 66th overall) and the dynamic highlights he's produced at times since joining Rivera's club, there's been some impatience with his development. He's had instances where he's turned down open rushing lanes due to poor reads or tried to dance around defenders unnecessarily and cost the offense yards. He's also committed a handful of crucial errors, like the four fumbles he lost in his 16 contests.
But Gibson, along with Rivera and coordinator Scott Turner, have been insistent that those issues will be less common as the 23-year-old continues to settle in behind the quarterback and offensive line. While everyone's in a rush for Gibson to deliver more quality rushes, he's making a point of taking his time.
"A lot of people sometimes forget that I changed from receiver to running back in the NFL and there’s a lot that comes with that," Gibson explained Monday. "You have to learn everything from scratch and most people when they get there, they already got that. I was just like, ‘Man, stop being so tough on yourself, it’s coming together at my pace. It may not be at everybody’s pace, but it’s at my pace and it’s showing.’"
In an effort to ensure it to shows more in the future, Gibson is planning to manage the upcoming offseason differently.
One adjustment he intends to implement is finding a nutritionist to better manage his diet and "help [his] body out." Also, a late-season toe injury prevented him from doing the kind of running back-centric work he wanted to do after his first go-round in the league, but fortunately, he thinks he's in better shape physically and will receive that coaching in the coming months.
Gibson's definitely trending in the right direction, and 2022 is setting up to be his best year yet. After completing a "running back game" versus the Giants, his goal now should be to put together a true running back season.