Antonio Gibson entered 2021 as a in Washington. A year later, it's possible the running back may not even be a starter when the Commanders open the 2022 season. Days after fumbling in the team's preseason opener, the former third-round draft pick rotated in with the club's second- and third-team offense, as well as special teams units, at Tuesday's practice. Coach Ron Rivera, meanwhile, hinted to reporters that Gibson's job is up for grabs ahead of Washington's Sept. 11 regular-season opener.
"There's always been a competition for positions on this team," Rivera said when asked if the top running back job is open, days after the coach indicated Gibson needs to "run harder" and perform better after his preseason miscue.
The 24-year-old Gibson, who topped 1,000 rushing yards in 2021, wasn't completely phased out of the starting offense Tuesday, taking some snaps as the RB1. For the first time this summer, however, he was also relegated to second- and third-team reps, which had typically been reserved for third-round rookie Brian Robinson Jr. He was also spotted blocking on a punt coverage unit, a sign that he is, in fact, in danger of a depth-chart demotion.
Rivera clarified afterward that Washington wants to "use all of our players" in different roles, but these developments suggest Robinson could be primed for a significant number of carries to start 2022. The Alabama product is considered more of a traditional back, whereas veteran backup J.D. McKissic has often been deployed as a pass-catching option.
Gibson previously had six fumbles in 2021, when his numbers, though solid, did not necessarily match expectations going into the year. The Memphis product flashed play-making promise as a rookie, totaling more than 1,000 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns in just 10 starts.