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Washington Commanders expected to shift Antonio Gibson from starting running back to kick returner

Jason Burgos

Antonio Gibson may be out as the Washington Commanders starting running back, however, it looks like he will still have a key and unexpected role on the team in 2022.

After making the transition from college wide receiver to NFL running back in 2021, Gibson evolved into one of the Commanders’ best young talents in his rookie campaign. He ended his debut season with just over 1,000 yards on the ground and 10 total touchdowns (seven on the ground and three through the air). Heading into 2022 he seemed primed to be a key part of the team’s offense with new starting quarterback Carson Wentz.

Related: Washington Commanders bench Antonio Gibson, sending a clear message in the process

However, this has not been a good summer for the 24-year-old. The turnover issues he had last season have followed him into training camp, and his performance has declined to a level where he was seemingly demoted for Washington’s second preseason game this past Saturday. Instead, third-round pick Brian Robinson started the game and rushed for 31 yards on eight carries.

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera confirms Antonio Gibson is their new return man

washington commanders
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Yet, Gibson is just too talented to serve as a backup running back. That is why in recent days he has been used as a returner on both the kickoff and punt return units. Following practice on Thursday, the Washington Post asked head coach Ron Rivera about what looks to be a new role for Gibson. The coach did not deny it and seems excited about the upside of the Memphis Tigers standout as their new return man.

  • Antonio Gibson stats (2021): 1,037 yards rushing, 294 yards receiving, 10 total touchdowns

“You still need to see some more stuff, but you know, I think he is [their new kick returner]. I do. I think he’s done a nice job. When you watch it on tape, you see him circling the ball, getting under it, and making a good catch. It’s something he did well in college, and we’re pretty excited having him do it.”

The Washington Commanders will conclude their slate of exhibition games on Saturday, Aug. 27, in a matchup with regional rivals the Baltimore Ravens at 7 PM ET.