How Patriots RB Antonio Gibson could change the new offense – Boston Herald

The Patriots’ first external free-agent signing was not a wide receiver nor an offensive tackle nor a player who filled another obvious need.

It was Antonio Gibson.

A young Commanders running back with as much natural pass-catching talent as most any back in the league. A 6-foot-2, 220-pound runner who plays with both power and fire, given his fumbling history.

Here’s the statistical skinny on Gibson: he rushed 65 times for 265 yards and a touchdown last season, and caught 48 passes for 389 yards and two more scores. He led Washington in rushing as a rookie in 2020 and posted a 1,000-yard season in 2021, then lost playing time and carries over the next two seasons.

In New England, Gibson’s three-year contract all but guarantees he’ll make the 2024 roster, but he will need to prove himself over the final two seasons to stick. At a minimum, Gibson should become the team’s true first third-down back since 2021, when the Patriots ran into an early-season injury emergency without James White, broke glass and pulled out Brandon Bolden to replace him. But Gibson has bigger plans than that.

“I’m not going to stick myself to just a third-down back,” Gibson said on Monday. “I want to compete just the same as everybody else. I feel like that’s only going to make the running back room better. I’m not here to step on anybody’s toes, but at the end of the day, we have to compete. I’m not just here to take the backseat.”

Gibson’s film shows he has more to offer than his traditional numbers would indicate, even as a player still best described as a super-sized jack-of-all-trades with one fatal flaw and a soft set of hands.


Gibson is a rare pass-catching power back, someone capable of running between the tackles and splitting out wide as a receiver. He’s a one-cut rusher with excellent vision who’s best suited for zone schemes, as reflected in his usage last year (45 runs behind zone-blocking to 19 behind gap schemes, per Pro Football Focus.) Gibson can also get skinny in tight quarters, slipping through closing holes and pulling into the second level.

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Gibson boasts strong contact balance, often absorbing hits near the line of scrimmage and shaking off would-be tacklers mid-juke before gaining extra yards. Half-hearted tackles aren’t taking him down.

Gibson’s strength is most evident in these moments, as he rarely lowers the boom on defenders at 6-foot-2. Though he will weaponize a mean stiff arm, which most often helps him extend perimeter run. Overall, he averaged 3.51 yards after contact last season, fourth-most among running backs with 60-plus carries, per Pro Football Focus.

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In pass protection, Gibson is consistently effective within a variety of assignments: single-blocking interior blitzers, scanning the front and taking edge blitzers opposite his pre-snap alignment in shotgun and chipping or double-teaming defensive ends. His route tree was limited in 2023, but earlier tape and college film suggests he’s capable of more. Gibson is also an above-average kick returner.



Gibson fumbled four times last season, and six times in 2021, when he was Washington’s lead back. He has a tendency to get casual with the ball in space, extending it low and away from his body while sprinting ahead. Gibson will also expose the ball on second efforts that amount to high-risk, low-reward plays (see: Week 3 fumble vs. Buffalo).

This is crippling to his potential as a lead back, and explains his decline in usage last year and generally the last two seasons. Specific to last year, two of his fumbles stemmed from poor technique, while another was the result of a dropped pitch he immediately recovered, and the fourth from bad luck (a blind-side, bang-bang tackle versus Miami).

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Gibson’s lack of goal-line usage, especially for a 220-pound back, highlights occasionally poor pad level, and perhaps his former coaching’s distrust of putting him in these scenarios. He’s also not particularly explosive, which places added importace on his initial cuts to set up further gains. And despite running a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash as a prospect, Gibson’s speed doesn’t translate at an elite level game field, though he can pull away from defenses with enough time and space.

Scheme fit

Gibson is a solid No. 2 back worthy of making spot starts in Rhamondre Stevenson’s absence and soaking up to 40 or 50% of snaps in the backfield. He could also unlock more two-back personnel in New England, provided the coaching staff trusts him enough to protect the ball. Gibson and Stevenson are both plus pass-catchers for their position, and rank among the Patriots’ best playmakers on offense.

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