Daniel Snyder makes the Washington Football Team an easy target for criticism. He’s the poster boy for dysfunctional ownership that plunges a franchise into perpetual turmoil.
While there’s more than a healthy amount of justification for the backlash against Snyder, his team is actually run more efficiently than you think. In particular, Washington has gotten adept at finding value in the third round of the NFL draft.
Terry McLaurin is one of the burgeoning greats among up-and-coming wide receivers. He came off the board 76th overall in 2019 out of Ohio State, thought to be little more than a potential special teams demon at the pro level.
This year may have produced an even better third-round find for the Burgundy and Gold. Antonio Gibson was the 66th player taken back in April, and he’s already looking like a lock to be named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Gibson was considered too much of a ‘tweener by many analysts. He’d played wide receiver and running back at Memphis.
Gibson’s not only made the change work. He’s made it look like a masterstroke.
Gibson is Washington’s leading rusher with 645 yards. He added 115 of those to spark a 41-16 road win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
His breakout performance on the national stage included three touchdowns on the ground. Those scores put Gibson in some elite company historically.
Antonio Gibson is the first rookie to score 3 TD on Thanksgiving since Randy Moss in 1998 (3 TD and 163 yards on 3 receptions against Dallas). pic.twitter.com/NWXadv8uan
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 27, 2020
Finding the end zone has become a happy habit for Gibson, who has 11 rushing scores to his credit. Alfred Morris set the franchise rookie record with 13 in 2012.
Gibson will obliterate that record because he’s already Washington’s most consistent source of points.
Antonio Gibson is the only rookie in @WashingtonNFL franchise history to have a rush TD in 5 straight games.
He joins Nick Chubb, Todd Gurley, and Maurice Jones-Drew as the only NFL rookies to do so since 2000.
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 26, 2020
There isn’t another first-year runner as prolific as Gibson when he sees the end zone. James Robinson has amassed more yards with the Jacksonville Jaguars (762), but he only has five rushing touchdowns to his credit.
Robinson also can’t match Gibson’s 4.6 yards per attempt. Gibson is taking on more responsibility in Turner’s offense.
Gibson is a true workhorse in both phases, adding 32 receptions totaling 233 yards to his output.
Turner’s been having fun moving Gibson and fellow dual-threat back J.D. McKissic around to confuse defenses. The Cowboys were confused when Gibson scampered over from five yards for the first of his three TDs on Thursday.
📺 #WASvsDAL on FOX
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 26, 2020
Playing a Dallas team that acts as though the season is an inconvenience was always going to help Gibson pad his statistics. He gashed Mike Nolan’s woeful defense for 128 rushing yards and a score when Washington beat the Cowboys 25-3 on home soil in Week 7.
Sweeping the season’s series against their bitter rival has put Rivera’s men top of a weak NFC East. Washington leads the way at 4-7, but things should look so much better.
Rivera’s decision to go for two instead of kicking the extra point to tie cost Washington against the New York Giants in Week 6. Meanwhile, Chase Young‘s momentary brain freeze gifted the Detroit Lions a win two weeks ago.
Gibson carried a mere 22 times combined in both games. The lesson for Turner was clear: Feed Gibson and Washington win.
It’s becoming easier for Turner to call Gibson’s number because of how the rookie has improved. He’s showing more power and willingness when running between the tackles.
One growth in Gibson's game: lowering shoulder better; falling forward more
— John Keim (@john_keim) November 26, 2020
Gibson is also productive because of better blocking along a reshuffled O-line. Morgan Moses has switched to left tackle, while David Sharpe, a low-key trade acquisition from the Las Vegas Raiders, has moved over to the right.
Line coach John Matsko has this group playing at a peak level. Washington’s front five manhandled the Dallas defensive front on Gibson’s third score.
Hat trick pic.twitter.com/nKJZHdaume
— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) November 27, 2020
Any remotely talented running back would run to daylight through a hole that size.
Washington’s inside-zone rushing attack is one of the best in the NFL. The scheme is perfect for Gibson’s vision, quick first step, and acceleration once he reaches the second level.
His growing confidence in this offense is tangible.
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) November 27, 2020
Edwards-Helaire has rushed for 655 yards, chipped in with 232 as a receiver, and accounted for five touchdowns.
Those are award-worthy numbers, but Edwards-Helaire has superior talent around him. Every defense on the Chiefs’ schedule wants to get pressure on Patrick Mahomes, wants to take away the deep ball to Tyreek Hill, and wants to jam Travis Kelce underneath.
Defenses are only able to cover so many things and often overlook Edwards-Helaire.
By contrast, Gibson is the main man in the Washington offense. He’s thriving despite Terry McLaurin being the only wide receiver opponents have to worry about. Despite Rivera cycling through three quarterbacks through 11 games.
Yet it’s Gibson, the running back who reminds me most of former Raiders great Charlie Garner, who is the strongest choice for end-of-season accolades.