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'He's A Swiss Army Knife': Redskins Plan To Use Antonio Gibson As An Offensive Weapon


Adrian Peterson watched from his home Friday night as the Redskins selected Antonio Gibson with the 66th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

As Gibson's highlight reel played on ESPN, Peterson watched the former Memphis Tiger sprint away from Tulsa's defensive backs and weave through SMU's defense. So what does the 35-year-old veteran and likely future Hall of Famer think of Gibson?

"Man, he's an outstanding athlete," Peterson told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael and former Redskins defensive back Fred Smoot. "He's going to be able to contribute, not only at the running back position but as a receiver. He's very talented."

Gibson doesn't think of himself as a running back or a receiver; he prefers to be classified as an offensive weapon. It would seem the Redskins agree with him, and as they try to implement offensive coordinator Scott Turner's Air Coryell system in Washington, they plan to move Gibson around all over the field.

"He's a Swiss army knife," vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith told local reporters after drafting Gibson. "You can use this guy in a lot of different ways, so it opens up a lot of options for our offense."

The Redskins' curiosity for Gibson first peaked during the Senior Bowl in January. He led the South team with 68 rushing yards on 11 carries, but Smith and the scouting department kept pointing out how Gibson was being moved around in the offense. That's when the team started looking into how he would fit into their multi-faceted system.

"[Defenses] have to honor him wherever he's aligned," said head coach Ron Rivera. "It is going to open up things for his teammates, whether they be wide receivers, tight ends or other running backs. This is a guy that is really, as Kyle said, a little bit of a Swiss army knife."

Turner's plan for how to use Gibson, as well as his value on special teams, were factors that swayed Smith and Rivera to draft him. In a similar fashion to how he used skill players as the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, Turner envisions Gibson as someone who can operate as a "true running back" while also being split out as a slot receiver.

"That's what he showed through the draft process," Turner said. "That's what we're going to try to do with him, just recognize what he does well, have him do it, and as he matures as a player, if he can handle it, he'll get more and more action."

The role is similar to how Turner used Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. Like Gibson, McCaffrey made plays as a rusher and receiver in 2019 with 2,392 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. McCaffrey was clearly used more as a running back last year with 287 rushing attempts compared to 116 receptions, but the ratio was more even with Turner calling plays, as 44% of McCaffrey's touches came as a pass-catcher during that four-game stretch.

Gibson is an inch taller and 23 pounds heavier than McCaffrey, so they aren't completely alike. But Rivera sees similarities in their skillsets.

"He's shown some position flexibility playing in the slot, then he shows position flexibility playing in the backfield," Rivera said. "[Memphis] ran some wildcat with him behind the center taking direct snaps. This is a very versatile, young football player that we really think is going to be a guy that can get on the field for us early and contribute."

Gibson agrees with the comparison.

"[McCaffrey's] exactly like what I want to do. I want to be in the backfield, but also I want to play in the receiving game. I feel like he's tremendous doing that, and that's what I want to bring to the team: my ability to catch effectively and make plays happen and also be able to run and be able to protect the quarterback -- just an all-around team player and an all-around back."

Although the Redskins now have seven running backs on their roster, Rivera expects Gibson to contribute in his rookie season. Aside from him being on special teams, Turner could use him in third-down situations and design specific packages for him.

All that is fine with Gibson. As long as he is helping the team, he doesn't care what his role will be this upcoming season.

"Offense is something I'm very talented at," Gibson said. "I feel like I can dominate wherever they put me. Wherever they need me, I'm willing to go."