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Rookie running back Antonio Gibson is hitting his stride just as the Washington Football Team eyes the playoffs with just five games left in the regular season.
The third-round draft pick spent most of his college career playing both wide receiver and running back. With the release of Adrian Peterson, Washington committed to their young running backs, led by the versatile Gibson.
The Football Team has spent well over half of the season learning how to win and figuring out their identity. Now as the team begins to gel, Gibson is emerging as a growing threat on the ground.
With Alex Smith leading the way at quarterback and the offensive line finally opening up holes, Gibson has truly thrived. Throughout the short time period Smith has worked with Gibson, he has witnessed the rookie’s growth.
“I think from his time here and the time that we’ve been together, I think the thing that really stands out as the weeks have gone on are the little plays that have gone unnoticed,” Smith said. “A lot of times it’s the run when nothing’s really there and he still puts his head down and gets four yards. Whereas I think early on in the year, you’re always trying to make the big play or bounce it. I think he’s really done a nice job trusting his reads and eyes.”
Eight of Gibson’s 11 touchdowns have come since Week 7, including 402 of his 645 rushing yards during that span.
“I think it’s always been evident the big play potential and ability he has. It’s been really nice seeing him more and more comfortable,” Smith continued. “I think he has such a great knack of finding the end zone. I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all that he’s having so much success in that area as well.”
On Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys, Gibson had his way in front of a national audience with 136 total rushing yards and three touchdowns. This performance led to Rookie of the Week honors.
Gibson will face one of his biggest tests of the season on Monday as Washington prepares to face the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers and their high-ranking defense. Nonetheless, he will be ready for the spotlight.
“Honestly, it’s the story of my life,” Gibson said. “Every time the spotlight comes on, it seems like God is always watching down on me.”
Gibson is on pace to finish his rookie season with 938 yards and 14 touchdowns, which would break the franchise’s rookie scoring record set by Alfred Morris in 2012. Despite this success, coach Ron Rivera believes they haven’t fully tapped into Gibson’s potential yet.
“Again, I’ll continue to say this, right now I compare his running style to Arian Foster. I like who the young man can be for us,’ Rivera said. “I like the way he runs the ball. He’s got good body lean when he runs. He’s got the step to speed to burst and he’s got good vision. He’s learning to be the kind of runner that we hope he can be for us. His skill set of catching the ball in the backfield we really haven’t gotten to, either.”
With so much more talent to unlock, Gibson is shaping up to be a reliable weapon for years to come.