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Washington Football Daily 9/16: Explaining Antonio Gibson's Usage Against The Eagles

Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (24) and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry (47) in action during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sep. 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (Alika Jenner/NFL)
Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (24) and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nate Gerry (47) in action during an NFL football game, Sunday, Sep. 13, 2020 in Landover, Md. (Alika Jenner/NFL)

The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.

Stay up to date with "Washington Football Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.

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Based on the Washington Football Team's first drive Sunday, it seemed as though third-round rookie Antonio Gibson would handle a majority of the rushing load. Washington's first offensive play of the season was a hand-off to Gibson for a two-yard gain. On the next play, Gibson was stuffed for a three-yard loss.

But after those two carries, Gibson was not used as much as many anticipated in Washington's 27-17 win over the Eagles. He touched the ball 11 times for 44 yards but played just 18 snaps compared to 29 for Peyton Barber and 31 for J.D. McKissic. After receiving six carries for 33 yards in the first half, Gibson ran the ball three times for six yards the rest of the game.

"He's a young player; I think that's the biggest thing," offensive coordinator Scott Turner said about Gibson's usage in Week 1. "As a rookie, you don't want to overwork those guys or put them in too much of a situation early. I think that his role will continue to grow. "

Circumstances also dictated who was in the backfield. Turner said the team has confidence in Barber when it gets into the red zone, and Washington ran 19 such plays in the second half. Seven of those were hand-offs to Barber from inside the 10-yard line, and he made the most of them by scoring a pair of touchdowns.

Furthermore, with Washington holding a seven-point advantage late in the fourth quarter, Turner said the plan was to bleed the clock. Barber received two carries before Dustin Hopkins kicked the field goal that put the hosts ahead, 27-17, with 3:29 to play. On the ensuing possession, Barber rushed five more times to help close out the game. That played a role in Barber averaging 1.7 yards per rush on 17 attempts.

Gibson's debut was statistically underwhelming, but one play in particular showed everything the 6-foot-2, 220-pound speedster is capable of. With about seven minutes left before halftime, Gibson took a hand-off up the middle, made two jump cuts to the left and exploded to the outside. If Gibson did not trip over a blocking Terry McLaurin, his 20-yard run would have been even longer. Still, it served as the longest run of the game for either team.

"Antonio, his game is only going to grow and grow with the more experience he has," Turner said. "I think, 'Hey, he got his first game under his belt, he got tackled, he had a couple runs.' Understanding the speed of the game, I think his comfort level will just increase."

QUICK HITS

-- Rivera gives his outlook on Washington's wide receivers: Washington worked out five wide receivers Monday: Jeff Badet, Hakeem Butler, Quartney Davis, Codey McElroy and Dillon Mitchell. When asked about it Wednesday, head coach Ron Rivera said the team is basically doing its due diligence as far as players they might want to add to their practice squad or that could develop into contributors down the road. Rivera likes what Washington currently has at wide receiver; it's just a very young group.

"We had five guys that were up [on the active roster] that I have more playing experience than they do," Rivera said. "I played nine and there were only eight years of playing experience between those five guys. That's our biggest concern: that we're young at that position."

-- Communication key for Haskins against Eagles: With Washington trailing, 17-0, late in the second quarter, Dwayne Haskins Jr. and the offense got the ball back in Eagles' territory following an interception. As Haskins prepared to take the snap, he noticed a linebacker was blitzing. He communicated that to center Chase Roullier, who redirected the rest of the offensive line to pick up the blitz. That allowed Haskins to throw a slant where the linebacker was supposed to be and connect with McLaurin for a 21-yard gain. Four plays later, Washington scored its first touchdown of the season.

"Just stuff like that where we're getting on the same page," Haskins said. "It happened a lot."

-- Young studies Cardinals pass-rusher: Chandler Jones has been one of the better pass rushers in the NFL since being drafted in 2012. He's recorded at least 11.0 sacks in each of the past five seasons, including 17.0 in 2017 and 19.0 last season. He earned first-team All-Pro honors both times.

Chase Young wants to be the best, so he frequently watches the best pass-rushers to see how they operate. One of players he studies is Jones, who he'll get to see play in person Sunday.

"He's top in the league," Young said. "He has a good get off, he uses his hands really well. He's a real athletic guy on the field."

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