Logan Paulsen: Antonio Gibson fumbling problem 'is a thing'

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Antonio Gibson put the ball on the turf in Washington's end, on his team's second drive of the game, leading to a quick Panthers touchdown just a few plays later.

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera was direct in addressing Gibson's fumble after the game.

"He's gotta run hard," Rivera said. "When he starts to shuffle and goes sideways, that's when he struggles. So when he goes hard — and we saw that when he came back in in the second half, he put his shoulder down and ran hard — that's what he's capable of doing. That's when he's at his best. So we talked about that. I'm very pleased with the way he came back in the second half and ran the ball."

Gibson is quickly developing a reputation for fumbling that ends many promising careers prematurely. Coming off of six fumbles in 2021, fumbling is officially an issue for him, one he'd better correct quickly before he finds himself out of a starting job, or worse.

Commanders commentator Logan Paulsen told The Sports Junkies he wasn't surprised by how animated Rivera was about Gibson fumbling again.

"No, not really," he said. "That's a big deal, right? He's a very dynamic athlete. He's a good football player. He's a good dude. I've talked to him a couple times. He seems like a very, very good human being. But you can't play football in the NFL if you're gonna turn the football over."

"And I think you want to get a guy like that on the field," he said. "And I think obviously the draft pick of Brian Robinson looks a little bit different now, in terms of complexion, because now Brian Robinson looks like he can be the starter, because he doesn't fumble the football.

Robinson, selected by Washington in the third round (Alabama), had six carries for 26 yards and a touchdown. If he carries that momentum into the next two preseason games, he could give the coaching staff a real tough decision to make come final roster cuts.

"And so what does that mean for Antonio's future I think is a big deal," Paulsen said. "I think it's a big deal and I understand why Ron's upset about it or he's passionate about it, and I kind of feel the same way, because I want Antonio to be successful. I want him to be a 1,500-yard rusher. I want those things for him, but I know, having played, having covered the team now, you can't do that if you're gonna turn the football over and that's just a fact of playing running back in the NFL."

The Sports Junkies shared an insight from a caller that Gibson's six fumbles last season, when held up against his lone fumble during his rookie season, doesn't come out to a bad average. But Paulsen wasn't buying that theory and says the coaching staff likely won't either.

"Obviously I think regular-season games is important," he said. "But I think the six fumbles last year is a significant uptick in terms of how he's carrying the football and I think it's something that needs to be considered. You can't just say, 'Oh, well like his average over the first two years of his career is three a year.' Like, he had six last season. So I think that's important. I think it's very pressing in people's minds, it's something they've been working on with him."

"I don't think they need to burn the boats," he said. "I don't think this is the end of the world. It's one game. It's just unfortunate that it happened on the second drive of the first preseason game because I think a lot of people were thinking about that: Oh, he needs to get the fumbling corrected. And it's not just fans, it's coaches, it's people in the building. Like everyone knows that's something that needs to get corrected.

"But I do think that it is just one game, it was early, and it was his first time getting kind of live contact all offseason. I understand people approaching this more cautiously, but it is a thing and it needs to be addressed, and the only way he can answer my concerns about it, and the fans' concerns and coaches' concerns, is against Kansas City, not putting the ball on the ground."