Rivera has clear message for Gibson after latest fumble originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Mistakes in the NFL preseason are often treated with patience and regarded as learning experiences. After all, errors in August don’t really count.
Antonio Gibson’s Saturday mistake, however, didn’t feel like one that could simply be brushed off.
After fumbling six times during the 2021 campaign, Gibson once again put the ball on the ground in the Commanders’ exhibition opener versus the Carolina Panthers.
The giveaway occurred on Gibson’s second carry of the afternoon at FedEx Field and it set his opponent up deep inside of Washington territory. Three plays later, Sam Darnold tossed a touchdown to put the visitors up 10-0.
Afterward, Ron Rivera sounded awfully perturbed with the club’s third-year pro.
“Antonio’s got to run harder,” Rivera told reporters. “When he starts to shuffle and go sideways, that’s when he struggles.”
During the sequence that Gibson gifted the Panthers with precious field position, he took a shotgun handoff from Carson Wentz and stutter-stepped before attacking the line of scrimmage. Yes, Carolina linebacker Cory Littleton ought to be credited for forcing the fumble in a timely manner, but Gibson’s ball security also deserves derision and is what matters locally.
In a postgame session with reporters, the 24-year-old didn’t go easy on himself.
“Very frustrating,” Gibson said. “Can’t have that.”
After the turnover, Charles Leno Jr. was spotted speaking with Gibson on the home sideline. Leno Jr.’s message to No. 24 sounded similar to what Rivera was emphasizing in his press conference.
“Understand that that’s one play, it doesn’t have to happen again,” Leno Jr. apparently told Gibson. “Work on technique and understand the way he runs. We really appreciate how he runs, when he runs hard that ball doesn’t come out. Just making sure we keep attacking, don’t be passive.”
What makes the lapse so frustrating is that Gibson entered 2022 touting his confidence at the position, one that was initially unfamiliar to him as he joined the organization.
After two seasons of learning on the job, Gibson declared that he was ready to be recognized as a pure running back and, at training camp, he touched on the importance of being more decisive when a play was called for him.
Yet on Saturday, he came out unsure of himself, which cost him and his team.
“Sometimes he tries to make a big play,” Rivera said. “Every play is designed to score, but when it’s not going to score… you’ve got to understand, if it’s not there, just stick my foot in the ground and get what I can and protect the ball.”Gibson’s raw talent is obvious. Remember, he posted a 1,000-yard effort in 2021 despite being quite new to his NFL occupation. His combination of size and speed makes him someone who’s not fun to chase down and tackle.
Gibson’s fundamentals, though, leave much to be desired, and considering how Brian Robinson Jr. looked at FedEx Field, Gibson is facing pressure to clean up his shortcomings rather quickly.
Rivera made it clear Saturday what Gibson has to do in order to produce for the Commanders, while his tone of voice made it clear that he’s not that keen on giving Gibson too many more chances to redeem himself.