Why isn't Antonio Gibson seeing more third-down snaps? Scott Turner explains

Peter Hailey
·3 min read

Why isn't Gibson seeing more third-down snaps? Turner explains originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

It's a question most fans, lots of analysts, many fantasy players and maybe even the player himself have asked at one point or another this season.

Why isn't Antonio Gibson seeing a larger share of Washington's third-down snaps?

According to one ESPN fantasy expert, Gibson has been called on for just nine of Washington's 105 third downs in 2020. For someone as dynamic and as versatile as the rookie, shouldn't he be more involved?

Well, the man in charge of such things, offensive coordinator Scott Turner, faced that inquiry on Wednesday, and he gave out a few reasons in his answer.

“When you’re a young player, especially with a guy like Antonio — and we’ve kind of talked about this through the course of the year — you’ve got to balance the physical with the mental," Turner said. "Physically, he can do everything. We know that. Then, it’s just mentally. How much do we give him before it just overloads?"

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The lack of action in crucial situations for Turner's offense doesn't just have to do with Gibson, though.

"J.D. [McKissic] has done a really nice job in that role, both running the ball and catching it in our pass protection stuff," Turner said.

The Burgundy and Gold have been quite careful with Gibson in 2020. He's only registered 20 touches in a game once, and he has more often than not been in the 13-16 range. And as established above, hardly any of those have come on third down.

Now, part of that relates to McKissic, as Turner mentioned. While Gibson is someone the franchise surely wants to rely on in the long term, McKissic has been excelling in his own right and deserves to be in the lineup, too.

RELATED: NFL Network analyst ranks Chase Young, Antonio Gibson among top 25 rookies

Also, Gibson isn't close to a polished pro yet. Coaches felt like he was missing his fair share of running lanes early on, and this past Sunday versus the Giants, he had a crucial fumble and a couple of other plays that he needed to be better on, according to Turner.

A vet like McKissic, for example, is more trustworthy in pass protection than Gibson, which could be an area the coordinator is wary of when it comes to the Memphis product. That is just as much about awareness as it is talent.

Even so, the 22-year-old has also flashed serious big-play ability, which Washington's offense could really use more of. Terry McLaurin is the only true consistent threat on the unit, and Gibson would appear to be the best sidekick candidate for the star receiver. Those skills would be particularly useful for extending drives, or at least one would think.

Yet Turner and his staff have a plan, and they're going to largely stick to it. 

"Antonio is our guy," he said. "What we don’t want to do is get him to where he’s overwhelmed and not playing fast."