RB commanders controversy? Antonio Gibson, Brian Robinson and what it all means

ASHBURN, Va. — Let’s talk about the running back hierarchy of Washington commanders.

If he’s tasked with naming the primary option or best bet for most touches – the kind of information fantasy football fans and owners need – it’s still fair to write Antonio Gibson. Just use a pencil, not a pen.

We can probably use one hand finger to count the number of highly rated guards in the league after a season of rushing 1,000 yards and taking non-returning special teams representatives to training camp. Gibson did it on Tuesday.

Even with Brian Robinson. It’s standard for a third-round selection that’s screened as part of the supporting cast to Gibson and JD McKissic. Asked about the unusual work of Gibson, the running back with 1,832 rushing yards in his first two seasons, coach Ron Rivera said, “That’s what we do.”

As to whether there is competition for the position of starting running back, a curt Rivera said: “There has always been competition for positions on this team.”

At a minimum, the coaching staff is sending Gibson a message he’s heard before.

“One of the first things we talk about when we get together on offense at the start of training camp is protecting the football,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Tuesday. “We cannot waste our possessions. If you smoke the ball, it’s a loss of possession. This is the first job of a ball carrier. To protect the ball. We can’t have that. (Antonio) knows it. I’m not telling you anything that hasn’t already been said to Antonio.

Another interpretation: After Gibson was benched at times last season following fumbles, and with this team struggling to avoid a third straight slow start under Rivera, patience is thin.

The use of special teams and deep-rotation reps comes three days after the returning third-year with a bad habit of fumbling last season lost possession in the first quarter of Washington’s preseason opener. It also followed Rivera telling reporters after the game, “Antonio needs to run harder.”

Meanwhile, Turner hailed Robinson’s preseason debut on Tuesday. The “physical runner” had 41 yards from scrimmage on eight touches (two receptions) on Washington’s third possession, which came immediately after Gibson’s fumble.

“I was happy and impressed with him. The way he ran some things,” Turner said of Robinson. “He wasn’t perfect on his runs, but he runs so hard he was still able gain positive ground. It’s great to see from behind.

The coordinator also said Robinson “can run away from guys” and was surprised by the rookie’s passing ability.

Turner said Robinson’s selection was primarily a talent grab, while acknowledging, “We wanted to add another back … to help this room.” While Turner played down the idea of ​​drafting Robinson to provide a consistent ground presence, that’s what this offense needed.

At 221 pounds with a sub-4.4 gear, Gibson has capabilities three down. Last season, Washington’s four-game winning streak coincided with Gibson’s better stretch and ball control success. But between fumbles — he led the league among non-QBs with six — multiple injuries and undecided runs inside, he failed to deliver that element consistently.

Although capable of explosive plays every time he touches the ball, the former college receiver has struggled to read traffic lanes since entering the league. Football Outsiders ranked Gibson 38th in DVOA among running backs with at least 100 runs last season.

“When (Antonio) starts to shuffle and go sideways, that’s when he struggles,” Rivera said after Saturday’s game. “We saw him running hard when he came back. …He lowered his shoulder and ran hard. It is what he is capable of doing. »

Gibson spent the offseason losing weight and thinking about ball control, which made Saturday’s blunder “very frustrating,” he said.

“I can’t have that, though,” he added. “It’s a big big game league, that can’t happen.”

Every player endures mistakes. Successful people find a way to move on. Gibson’s next opportunity comes Saturday at the Kansas City Chiefs.

“The only thing I can say is, ‘Hey, get your mind off it,'” McKissic said encouragingly. “It’s something we have to learn to do as players. Once something bad happens, it’s over. We have to move on to the next room, and it’s not as easy as it looks.

Gibson has time before Washington’s regular season opener on Sept. 11. The actions of the coaching staff suggest they want to see improvement sooner. If not, they have a hard-working recruit ready to go. Projecting Robinson as the rushing leader of the commanders would count as a bold prediction. But it’s less spicy than a few days ago.

Other notes from a topical Tuesday

• Washington reduced its roster to 86 before Tuesday’s deadline at 4pm ET by releasing three players, including safety Troy Apke. The 2018 fourth-round pick died playing in the secondary but remained a valued special teams player. Apke missed the majority of camp with an undisclosed injury.

Another survivor who landed on the trade wire: tight end Sammis Reyes. Washington placed sophomore tight end and guard Alex Armah on injured reserve. This effectively ends their seasons unless the parties agree to an injury settlement within a week of the outing. Then players could re-sign later.

Reyes caused a stir last season as he tried to reach the NFL despite having never played the sport. That’s exactly what the Chilean and former college basketball player played in 11 games last season. Although he was slowly developing as a wide receiver, Reyes quickly became a credible blocker and special teams contributor.

However, the chiseled 6-foot-5 Reyes battled a hamstring injury during camp and only played two special teams snaps against the Panthers. The IR stint is probably good for his overall development and career in Washington. He apparently lost ground to undrafted rookies Armani Rogers and Austin Hodges looking for a potential fourth slot.

Washington also released offensive lineman Deion Calhoun and cornerback De’Vante Bausby.

Defensive lineman David Bada, a member of the league’s international pathway program (which is also how Reyes entered the league), does not count towards the 85-man count.

• Rivera arrived for his grumpy media session. Unhappy with Tuesday’s practice which included overly aggressive hitting (and an uncertain day for offense), he spoke to the players for more than five minutes after the session.

“I struggled with some things that happened there,” the coach said without giving further details.

• Turner explained the thought process behind calling plays from the touchline this season after being in the stand in 2021. He thought about the script after the season and then the plan crystallized after speaking with Wentz of benefits.

“It really confirmed it. … I think it’s important to have that direct line of communication,” Turner said. “I spoke to Coach Rivera about it, and he was totally supportive. OK.”

As Turner moves to the sidelines, senior offensive assistant Jim Hostler will step into the stand during games.

(Photo by Brian Robinson, left, and Antonio Gibson: Geoff Burke/USA Today)

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