When Scott Turner departed from Carolina this offseason to take the offensive coordinator job in Washington under his former boss Ron Rivera, he left behind being able to coach one of the league's most dynamic players in Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.
In Washington, it's difficult to suggest if one running back they currently roster can fill McCaffrey's role in Turner's offense. However, according to CBS Sports NFL and fantasy football analyst Jamey Eisenberg, there's one player on the Burgundy and Gold that could have a similar role.
That player? Third-round rookie Antonio Gibson.
"They're talking about [Gibson] like Christian McCaffrey. That's very, very high praise," Eisenberg said. "But Scott Turner and Ron Rivera, they worked with Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, so they know the type of skill set they are getting. If he can be the pass-catcher out of the backfield, that type of player..."
Washington drafted Gibson as a running back, but the rookie split his time in the backfield and as a wideout at Memphis. During his final season with the Tigers, Gibson's rushing and receiving touches were almost identical. The third-round pick had 33 carries for 369 yards on the ground while totaling 38 receptions for 735 yards.
In Washington, Gibson joins a crowded running back room, but one where roles have yet to be defined. Derrius Guice has shown promise but has played just a total of five games over his first two NFL seasons. Adrian Peterson is 35 years old, and while a future Hall of Famer, catching passes has never been his specialty. Roster spots aren't all guaranteed for Peyton Barber, Bryce Love and J.D. McKissic.
This is where Gibson comes into play. Earlier this offseason, Rivera said that Gibson has a skill set similar to the Panthers star. Shortly after Washington drafted Gibson, the running back said that he welcomes the comparisons to McCaffrey.
"I would definitely like to compare myself to [McCaffrey] because he’s exactly like what I want to do," Gibson said. "I want to be in the backfield, but also I want to play in the receiving game. I feel like he’s tremendous doing that, and that’s what I want to bring to the team. My ability to catch effectively and make plays happen and also be able to run — just an all-around team player and an all-around back."
Of course, Gibson isn't McCaffrey. There arguably isn't another running back in the league that does what CMC does.
But if Gibson turns in just a fraction of McCaffrey's production, Washington will have landed a high-impact player.
Over the past two seasons, few players in the NFL have been more dominant than McCaffrey. His 2,485 rushing yards and 22 rushing touchdowns are each the fourth-most in the NFL over that span.
While McCaffrey's rushing numbers are quite impressive by themselves, where he excels the most is catching passes out of the backfield. The Panthers star hauled in 223 receptions and 1,872 receiving yards over the past two seasons, by far the most of any running back in the NFL. In 2019, McCaffrey became just the third player in NFL history to have over 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
Eisenberg isn't the first person to suggest Gibson could have an impact for Washington right away. ESPN fantasy football analyst Matthew Berry has high hopes for Gibson in 2020. NBC Sports analyst Josh Norris said Gibson could have a role in Washington similar to another Panther -- wideout D.J. Moore -- who had a breakout season in 2019. NBC Sports' Peter King thinks Gibson can be a Day 1 contributor.
With Washington lacking proven weapons outside of second-year pass-catcher Terry McLaurin, Gibson will have his chance to step up in 2020. Eisenberg thinks that when he gets his shot, the rookie will be "special" for the Burgundy and Gold.
"Antonio Gibson, love the setup for him," Eisenberg said. "I think he's going to be awesome in Washington...Antonio Gibson could be a very special player in his rookie campaign."
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