The last week has made things interesting in Washington's backfield.
Antonio Gibson, the penciled-in starter entering 2022 camp, struggled in the Commanders' preseason opener, gaining two yards on four carries and fumbling once. The turnover appears to have lingered in the minds of his coaches.
Gibson spent time with the first, second and third teams as well as special teams during practice Tuesday, an eyebrow-raising development for a player expected to be a team's lead running back. Coach Ron Rivera explained the distribution of reps as Washington seeking to use "all of our players" in a variety of scenarios.
"There's always been a competition for the positions on this team," Rivera said, via The Washington Post's Nicki Jhabvala.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner was more forthcoming when it came to Gibson's standing after the last week's events.
"You can't waste a possession; if you fumble the ball that's a waste of a possession," Turner said of Gibson, via ESPN's John Keim. "The first job is to protect the ball. It's something that has to be fixed."
Gibson's suddenly uncertain standing with the team makes it fair to wonder whether it's just the staff attempting to teach the third-year back a lesson, or if his job is seriously in jeopardy. Washington spent a third-round pick on Alabama running back Brian Robinson in April's draft, and Robinson shined in the Commanders' preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, finishing with 26 yards and one touchdown on six carries.
He seems to be trending upward for logical reasons. Turner explained Tuesday the Commanders like what they've seen from Robinson because he's been able to produce positive gains thanks to his hard-running style.
Washington has a number of capable backs in its stable. Gibson, Robinson, J.D. McKissic and Jaret Patterson have all proven to be hard runners who can contribute in both running and passing situations. But four is a crowd for most running back rooms, and Robinson is only improving his chances with his performance thus far. It might ultimately come down to Gibson or Patterson; the latter has experience battling for a roster spot, joining Washington as an undrafted free agent in 2021 before beating out Peyton Barber for the third and final running back job.
Patterson is again fighting for his job. This time, his competition might be Gibson, which is surprising when taken at face value. If anything, the backfield is far from being sorted out. The next two weeks will determine exactly how it looks entering the regular season.
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