The Washington Commanders’ preseason opener this past weekend was defined by continued fumble issues from star young running back Antonio Gibson.
It’s gotten so bad that head coach Ron Rivera and Co. had Gibson playing with deep reserves against the Carolina Panthers despite the fact that he put up north of 1,300 total yards a season ago.
Washington finds itself between a rock and a hard place heading into the 2022 season. The team fancies itself as a legitimate playoff contender and one of the top threats to unseat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. But with questions marks in the backfield and at quarterback, that seems to be more of a pipe dream than anything else.
One specific move this team could make is acquiring star running back Kareem Hunt in a trade with the Cleveland Browns. Hunt, 27, has rebounded from some serious off-field issues earlier in his career with the Kansas City Chiefs and should be a featured back at this point. In addition to his role as a reserve with the Browns, Hunt’s status as an underpaid player has led to him requesting a trade.
Below, we look at three reasons why Washington should bite the bullet and make a move ahead of Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Washington Commanders need to light a fire under Antonio Gibson
Rivera said it perfectly after Gibson lost a fumble in Washington’s preseason opener against Carolina last week. He did not hold back in his assessment of the running back’s performance.
Gibson put the ball on the ground six times a season ago, a clear indication that this is a continued problem for the wide receiver turned running back. Washington doesn’t have the margin for error to feature a back that continues to give the ball away.
Hunt is the complete antithesis of this. He’s fumbled the ball a mere four times in 948 career touches (once per 237 attempts). Since entering the league as a third-round pick out of Memphis back in 2020, Gibson is averaging one fumble per 72 touches. Ouch!
Kareem Hunt can be a featured back for the Washington Commanders
There’s a chance Washington opts to offer up Gibson for Hunt straight up. This would actually work well for both the Commanders and Browns. But it might be too early to give up on Gibson given the success he’s had outside of the fumble issues.
Perhaps, the Commanders simply bring on Hunt to take over the primary ball-carrier duties as a way to help Gibson sort things out behind the scenes. The latter would then compete with J.D. McKissic and rookie Brian Robinson for touches behind Hunt. It’s not like the former Pro Bowler of the Chiefs isn’t capable of being a RB1.
Hunt’s ablity to catch the ball out of the backfield could prove vital for Carson Wentz and Co. It would add to Washington’s solid pass-catching backfield rotation, giving Wentz some balanace as the recently-acquired quarterback looks to rebound from recent struggles.
Pressure is on Ron Rivera and Co.
It’s too early to say that Rivera is on the hot seat in Washington. Despite a lack of on-field success (14-19 record in two seasons), he has helped change the culture for one of the league’s most drama-filled organizations. But it’s all about results. If you’re not improving in today’s NFL, you are going to be under a microscope.
Adding Hunt to a skill-position group that includes Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and stud rookie Jahan Dotson could make Washington’s offense a top-10 unit in the NFL pending Wentz’s performence under center. Why not go for it and see if this is enough to compete with Dallas and Philadelphia in the NFC East?