* As the 2021 NFL season inches closer, NBC Sports Washington's Ethan Cadeaux takes a look at a handful of betting props surrounding the Washington Football Team. Next up: will Antonio Gibson reach 1,300 scrimmage yards?
The Bet: Antonio Gibson scrimmage yards, over/under 1300.5
Of all the bets that NBC Sports Washington is taking a look at in this series, this might be the most difficult one to predict.
After playing mainly wide receiver in college, Antonio Gibson shined at running back as a rookie for Washington in 2020. In 14 games for the Burgundy and Gold last year (10 starts), Gibson finished with nearly 800 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Those totals would have been even higher had he not been dealing with a toe injury at the end of the season.
But, perhaps the most surprising thing about Gibson's rookie campaign was his lack of impact in the passing game. In an offense that constantly featured check downs to running backs, Gibson finished with just 36 catches for 247 yards and no touchdowns via the pass.
By contrast, Washington's other running back, J.D. McKissic, also a former college wideout, finished the season with 80 receptions for nearly 600 receiving yards.
Washington's coaching staff has mentioned multiple times this offseason that it wants to get Gibson more involved in the passing game. He has the skillset for it, too.
But, will it happen? That will go a long way in whether Gibson is able to meet his 1,300.5 scrimmage yard prop.
The case for why Gibson will go OVER 1300.5 scrimmage yards
After an overall impressive rookie season, Gibson is expected to make a leap in Year 2. He expects it and so do his coaches.
"The expectation for him is to take another big step," head coach Ron Rivera said in June.
If Gibson is due for a "big step," yet he put up nearly 1,050 scrimmage yards last year, going over the 1300.5 scrimmage yards prop seems more than attainable. In fact, it even seems likely.
Gibson joined Washington with little experience as a running back and still excelled. Now, with a year under his belt at the position, he should feel even more comfortable carrying the football and taking on all the tasks Washington's running backs are asked to do.
“Last year was still a learning process for me, I got the hang of it as the season went on," Gibson said in June. "I’m knowing more about what I’m supposed to do, knowing more about running back."
As a rookie, Gibson average 4.7 yards per carry, yet he only carried the football 170 times. It's completely reasonable to expect Gibson to have at least 200 carries in 2021, if not close to 250, now that he's a lot more experienced at the position.
Naturally, that should lead to more rushing yards, with his first career 1,000 rushing yard season a more than realistic goal.
As mentioned earlier, Gibson is expected to have a bigger role in the passing attack this season, too. For Gibson, doubling his receiving yards from last year is not out of the question. In the last five years, we've seen 17 different running backs top 500 receiving yards in a season.
Yes, it's a difficult number to reach, but one that is certainly capable for Gibson with his versatile skillset.
Both Gibson and his coaches expect the second-year running back to take a leap in 2021. If he does so, the Memphis product should have no issues shattering 1,300.5 scrimmage yards.
The case for why Gibson will go UNDER 1300.5 scrimmage yards
Part of the reason Gibson had a really solid rookie year was because of the opportunity he was given. The running back was immediately a starter and one of the team's most skilled playmakers and seemed to have a bigger role as the season went on.
Yet, this offseason, Washington completely revamped its offense. It signed QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in free agency, who loves to sling the ball downfield and give his receivers a chance. That's far different than the offense Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, and Kyle Allen ran last year for Washington, which featured numerous check downs to Gibson and McKissic each week.
On the outside, Washington added versatile wideout Curtis Samuel in free agency, who can also line up in the backfield and carry the football. In fact, last year Samuel had seven games where he had at least three carries. The former Ohio State star will line up all over the field for Washington, but there's a chance he takes some carries away from Gibson, too.
This all goes without mentioning Terry McLaurin, who will likely see 10-plus targets on a weekly basis, and Logan Thomas, who is coming off a career year at tight end. Those two will need their touches as well.
Plus, McKissic is back, too. While he might have lesser of a role due to Gibson's emergence, he'll still get his snaps. Third-round WR Dyami Brown is already starting to make noise as another playmaker on the outside as well.
Simply put, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Washington. A lot more than there were in 2020, when Gibson averaged nearly 15 touches per game.
The reality is that Gibson could have a better year in 2021, yet still not reach 1,300.5 scrimmage yards. That's how different Washington's offense is from one year ago.
Also, in football, there's always one factor you can never predict: injuries. And, that's something Gibson had to deal with multiple weeks as a rookie.
Toward the end of the season, Gibson suffered a toe injury against the Steelers. While he only missed two games, the running back was clearly hurt once he returned. His numbers and touches both decreased as Washington leaned more on McKissic at the time.
That was last fall and shouldn't matter now, but Gibson still appeared to be dealing with a lingering toe issue during minicamp and OTAs. It's something to watch when training camp rolls around, because an injured toe will play a significant role in whether Gibson is able to make that Year 2 leap his coaches expect.
The verdict: UNDER 1300.5 scrimmage yards
This is a close, close, close call. Gibson should have an impressive second year. But, there are just too many factors to consider him going over 1,300.5 scrimmage yards a lock.
The fun bet is the over. The safer bet is the under.