- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2020

Antonio Gibson’s favorite play from his time at Memphis was his 97-yard kickoff return against SMU. The new Redskins rookie said it’s because of the blocks his teammates made to open up the lanes on his way to the end zone.

Crediting teammates is nice, but it undersells what Gibson did on that touchdown. It glosses over the burst of speed that left defenders in his wake, overlooks the raw power used to evade a sea of tacklers and ignores the nifty footwork needed to beat the kicker.

“If you come to me with arm tackles, I’ve just got this mindset, one person is not going to take me down,” Gibson said later. “I’m always fighting for extra yards. You’ll never see me run out of bounds unless it’s a game situation where I need to.”

The Redskins hope Gibson’s attitude, speed and power add a game-changing element to their offense after drafting the running back last weekend with the 66th overall pick. Hailed as “Swiss army knife” by a team executive, Gibson is set to play running back and wide receiver for Washington. Coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner envision Gibson in multiple spots throughout the game.

That sort of versatility is normal for Gibson. Memphis used him in a similar role, starting him at wide receiver but shifting him to the backfield throughout games. It’s also an increasingly valued trait in the NFL as hybrids like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara thrive.

The 6-foot, 228-pound Gibson embraces the comparisons.

But when he’s asked which player he most sees himself in, Gibson went with a surprising answer: Chicago’s Cordarrelle Patterson.

Patterson doesn’t have the same gaudy statistics as the two mentioned All-Pros, but Gibson said he made the comparison because of Patterson’s ability to play special teams. Teams have struggled how to use Patterson exactly on offense, but there’s no denying his talent for returning kicks — he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team as a return specialist earlier this month.

“I remember watching a game where he did punt and kickoff return, and I was just seeing him all over the field,” Gibson said. “Then he ended up in the backfield and I was like, ‘Alright, that is me right there.’”

Gibson said he’s been playing multiple positions his whole life.

But it was only relatively recently that NFL scouts began to view Gibson as an NFL prospect.

To get to the pros, Gibson spent two years at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi, and then transferred to Memphis, where he was buried on the depth chart for a year before finally getting extended playing time.

Gibson, though, capitalized when he was on the field. With the Tigers, Gibson scored a touchdown once every seven touches — 13 scores on 94 touches. Of those 13, eight were as a running back, four as a receiver and one as a returner.

“They have to honor him wherever he’s aligned,” Rivera said.

Rivera said he thinks Gibson can contribute right away, whether on special teams or in situational packages. But he’ll have to earn playing time. The running back room is particularly crowded and the Redskins signed veteran J.D. McKissic last month to be a pass-catching back.

For now, Gibson said he thinks he’ll spend most of his time in the running back room to begin with and then expanding his role from there. Gibson’s jersey number — 24 — also reflects that he’s viewed primarily as a running back.

But if it were up to him, Gibson said he sees himself “everywhere.”
“I feel like that is the reason that they love me so much is just being able to do both,” Gibson said.

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