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Washington's O-Line loves blocking for Antonio Gibson

Antonio Gibson jogs in for an 18-yard touchdown during the Washington Football Team's 22-7 win over the New York Giants. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Antonio Gibson jogs in for an 18-yard touchdown during the Washington Football Team's 22-7 win over the New York Giants. (Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)

Antonio Gibson only saw a sliver of daylight on the backside of the play as the Washington Football Team was trying to eat up the clock during its season finale against the New York Giants. 

As the second-year pro had shown numerous times throughout the year, that's all he needed.

Gibson planted his foot at the line of scrimmage, slipped past linebacker Quincy Roche and had a clear path to the second level of the Giants defense. He sprinted up to the 30-yard line and laid a lick on safety Xavier McKinney for a 17-yard gain.

The play was more than enough for Gibson, who finished the 22-7 victory with 146 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, to eclipse 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. It's a testament to how far Gibson has come since as he's learned how to hit holes and follow running lanes. Washington's offensive line has had an up-close view of his progress, and the group has given its seal of approval.

"I just love the way he hits the hole," Brandon Scherff said. "It was fun to see him explode through the hole and get that 1,000-yards rushing."

Being more decisive was one of Gibson's main points of improvement last year. It goes all the way back to Week 1 on the 2020 season, when a potentially longer run was limited to a 20-yard gain because he tripped up on Terry McLaurin’s feet. He admitted after the game that the mistake was on him, saying he was too indecisive on whether to go inside or outside of the block.

There have been flashes of improvement since then; after all, it was his debut as a pro. Against the Giants, which ended up being his most productive game of his career, there was no indecisiveness. Gibson ran with confidence, and it was clear on every carry as he rushed for seven yards per attempt.

"I felt like I showed the patience," Gibson said. "I hit the hole hard. Got north and south. Not trying to run east and west and trying to make something happen that's not there. I feel like it's all coming together."

It's helped that Washington's offensive line has given him some pointers on how he can be a more decisive runner. Charles Leno Jr., for example, told him to take another step or two to sell that he's going to run to the outside of a play before cutting back. That will allow Leno to seal off the defender more effectively and limit the possibility of them disrupting the play at the line of scrimmage. That helps set up the block, and it makes the offensive line's job much easier.

"It's something he's been doing a much better job at that I've seen," Leno said. "It's still his second year playing running back and he's still young at the position. But he's willing to learn and he's really good at receiving coaching."

One of the best examples of Gibson making quicker decisions on Sunday came during his 18-yard touchdown. He took the handoff to the right, saw that his lane was cut off and immediately turned upfield to get past a defender. It was enough for him to go untouched into the end zone and give Washington a 19-7 lead.

"All I know is he had a great year," said Sam Cosmi. "He is a tough runner, and he's always fighting for that extra inch."

Gibson became the first Washington running back to reach 1,000 yards since Adrian Peterson in 2018. It's a goal he's had on his mind since the offseason, so of course he's happy he reached a personal milestone. He's also aware that he didn't do it alone, and he made that clear to the offensive line.

"During his speech, he said, 'I couldn't have done it without you,'" Scherff said. "And if you're able to run the ball like that, it opens the field up for everything else. It makes our job a lot easier too."