Football Team

Why Turner is encouraged by Antonio Gibson's progress

Football Team

On Antonio Gibson's first career touchdown run against the Cardinals, the third-rounder out of Memphis looked like he belonged in the NFL. Gibson began the play with burst and then finished it with power. 

It was after the sequence where he slipped up.

After diving across the goal line and then getting up, Gibson began to head back toward the Washington sidelines. That's when Terry McLaurin began yelling at him about retrieving the football so he could keep it as a reminder of the milestone. Gibson went back to negotiate for the keepsake with the ref, and eventually, it was secured.

It was yet another learning experience for the highly-skilled but still developing rookie.

Thanks to a training camp where he was always involved and the franchise's decision to release Adrian Peterson just before roster cuts, Gibson went from intriguing project to a very buzzy name in a rapid span. 

Through two appearances, he hasn't had a full-on breakout performance, but offensive coordinator Scott Turner is quite encouraged with Gibson's growth.

"I think he’s one game more comfortable," Turner said Wednesday. "You can see him be more decisive with his cuts. He made a guy miss [in Arizona] and he got up field whereas in the first game he made a guy miss and then looked for the next guy to make him miss instead of just picking up that three, four yards."

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Even as Gibson's stock soared in late August and early September, Turner and Ron Rivera resisted putting out any major expectations regarding his production. They certainly see his skills — they wouldn't have drafted him on Day 2 if they didn't believe in them — but they are aware of his lack of reps in college and the fact that they're asking him to become a running back first and foremost and after that as well, which differs greatly from his split role at school.

You can already see their trust in him building, though (the offense's overall struggles have probably factored into this, too). Against the Eagles, Gibson saw 18 snaps; versus the Cardinals, that number jumped to 43.

"You go and you play in the NFL for the first time, there’s going to be a little bit of a transition," Turner said. "Hopefully this next week will be even another step as he gets comfortable playing."

Gibson was better in his second contest, turning his 13 carries into 55 yards and the aforementioned score. He's told the media in recent weeks that he prefers being able to get into a rhythm by consistently staying on the field, something that didn't come as easily in Week 1 due to the running back rotation. He's also picking up on key details that he has to improve in order to routinely find success, including tweaking the height at which he runs.

"I honestly think I’m just starting to apply that, like lowering my shoulder pads," Gibson said Wednesday. "When I got here, a lot of defensive guys were telling me, ‘Lower your shoulder pads, lower your shoulder pads.’"

The hope was that Gibson could be a dual threat option capable of finding the end zone from close in or far out right at the start of the year. That goal definitely remains, but perhaps it was a bit lofty to ask for right at the beginning of his career.

Right now, it's the smaller indications of progress that matter to people like Turner. While fans, and this offense, wouldn't mind watching Gibson rip off a 60-yard sprint, the offensive coordinator knows that as long as Gibson continues to settle in, those highlights will soon follow.

"Number one in particular, you just want to see him play like he’s just out there playing ball instead of just overthinking it or being too reactionary," Turner said. "I think that’s what happens a lot of the time with these young guys.”