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Washington Coaches See Antonio Gibson As 'A Mismatch Issue' For Defenses

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Antonio Gibson had all of his attention focused on his Zoom meeting with running backs coach Randy Jordan when Jordan called out his name to recite his responsibilities for a particular play.

It's become a common practice for coaches to quiz their players during virtual meetings, and being the good student that he is, Gibson began to list off everything he was supposed to do on the play Jordan had given him.

There was one problem: Gibson was telling Jordan what the slot receiver was doing on the play.

"I said, 'Whoa, whoa let's back this up. You're the halfback,'" Jordan said. "I think that he is really dialed in in terms of what he has to do with the receiver position and also the running back position, but it also gives you that flexibility."

Gibson, who was drafted No. 66 overall in April, and his role in Washington's offense is a bit of an enigma. He's played running back and receiver, but coaches haven't said much on where he will spend the majority of his time. It doesn't seem like it matters much to them what his official title is, though, because he can do it all.

"He is an athlete," Jordan said. "That is what he is."

Gibson has made it clear that he views himself as a weapon coming out of Memphis. Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith sees Gibson as a "Swiss army knife," and offensive coordinator Scott Turner envisions him functioning as a "true running back" while also lining him up as a slot receiver.

Gibson isn't picky about where they put him; he just wants to play.

"I'm just a guy they can use, no matter where it is," Gibson told WashingtonFootball.com staff writer Zach Selby. "If they need me down blocking at tight end, I can do that. If they need me to help out in the run game, I can do that. I just feel like I'm a guy you could use all around. It never hurts to have one of those guys."

Gibson said he has spent most of his time with the running backs, but every coach from Jordan to Ron Rivera has stressed the importance of making sure he gets time at receiver as well.

Rather than dumping all the responsibilities of two positions on him at once, Rivera said the focus is on helping him learn specific aspects of both.

"You can get into a situation where a guy that's going to play multi-positions for you and it can become overwhelming," he said. "Secondly, though, he's a very bright young man. I think learning is not going to be his problem as much as just understanding and getting a feel for the pro game as opposed to the college game."

Fortunately, Gibson has the chance to learn from his more experienced teammates, namely the 35-year-old Adrian Peterson. There are times when Gibson is amazed that Peterson, who is entering his 14th season, is still able to make plays. Peterson gave him two factors behind his success: keeping a proper diet and always asking questions.

"'Make sure you're doing the things you need to do to be able to come out here and perform,'" Gibson said Peterson told him. "He still asks a lot of questions. For somebody who's been in the league for a long time [to] still ask a lot of questions, that shows you something."

It's normal for Gibson to get tips from his teammates, but he is also paying attention to what they do on the field. He has noticed how smoothly Terry McLaurin runs his routes, and it turns out that's because McLaurin doesn't overthink his assignments.

So, Gibson has tried to copy that, and it has helped him use more of his blazing speed on the field.

Among the running backs, Gibson is surrounded by downhill runners like Peterson and pass-catchers like J.D. McKissic. Watching veterans at both positions allows him to become more rounded as a player, and he can add their skills to his own.

"It helps everybody out in the long run," Gibson said. "Then I go to the receivers and you see everybody run their routes and see how they adjust to things, how they get in and out of their breaks. Then you can add that to your bag. I feel like it just helps everybody in the long run if you're actually taking it in."

Gibson has backed up his reputation as a versatile piece on offense. He had 1,203 yards from scrimmage in two seasons at Memphis and added 647 yards and a touchdown as a kick returner. That experience, he said, has helped him learn the playbook for both positions as he moves between meetings with Jordan and wide receivers coach Jim Hostler.

"You're getting it from both worlds, so you know what the receiver's doing when you get in the backfield and then when you're at receiver, you know what the running back's doing," Gibson said. "So, it's worth it in the long run."

Because of Gibson's experience at multiple positions, Jordan said the former Tiger "doesn't just see it from the standpoint of running back."

"He sees it from all aspects because he has played all of these positions," he said. "I see a guy that can catch, I see a guy that can make guys miss, I see a guy that can run between the tackles and attack the perimeter like they have done at Carolina with [Christian] McCaffrey. He can give you mismatches in the passing game. I am really excited about his development and to have the opportunity to work with him."

Hostler also vouched for Gibson's comfort level. He still wants Gibson to develop like the other young players, but Hostler said "it's natural for him" to perform at any spot on the field.

"He is going to be a matchup issue for a defense," Hostler said. "Those are the guys you can take advantage of and do some things." 

Gibson has said from the moment he was drafted that he wants to contribute right away. He compares himself to players like Ty Montgomery, Cordarrelle Patterson and Alvin Kamara because of what they can do as runners and receivers and how they can adapt to any situation.

Gibson is confident he can dominate defenses, regardless of where he is on the field. When asked what he does best, Gibson simply replied, "Everything."

"Wherever they need me, I'm willing to go."

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