Since Ron Rivera took over as head coach of the Washington Commanders in 2020, he has brought in a running back every year. Antonio Gibson, Jaret Patterson [undrafted], Brian Robinson Jr. and Chris Rodriguez Jr. have all been brought in by the Commanders over the past four seasons.
One thing the three drafted running backs have in common: They all played at the Reese’s Senior Bowl, giving Washington’s coaches and scouts an up-close look at them for a week ahead of the draft.
Not only did all three play at the Senior Bowl, but they also have something else in common, according to Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy: They are hard to tackle.
#Commanders definitely have a “type” at RB.
Common trait: hard to tackle. https://t.co/E4Y5STZ4hq
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) June 1, 2023
Gibson came first in 2020. A third-round pick from Memphis, Gibson played wide receiver in college and transitioned into a full-time running back in the NFL. As a rookie, he rushed for 795 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He followed that up with 1,037 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 2021, but he struggled with fumbles.
That led the Commanders to add Robinson in the third round in 2022. Robinson missed the first four games after being shot twice in the leg in August but miraculously returned in Week 5. Robinson would lead the Commanders with 797 rushing yards.
Rodriguez is the latest addition, coming to Washington via the 2022 NFL draft. Rodriguez rushed for 3,643 yards and 33 touchdowns at Kentucky in the rugged SEC. Former Washington general manager Scot McCloughan called Rodriguez a “poor man’s Marshawn Lynch” and said he gave him a second-round grade.
With J.D. McKissic gone due to a neck injury, Gibson will assume more of his role as a third-down back who can make an impact on passing downs. Rodriguez will give both a breather.
Rivera’s goal at running back is to wear teams down with big, bruising, hard-to-tackle backs in the fourth quarter. Whenever Washington has employed that strategy it has worked.
With new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, the Commanders’ offense could be fun to watch in 2023. Washington has a deep stable of backs and one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL. Much of the team’s success will center around quarterback Sam Howell and offensive line improvements.