Washington Commanders: Two players can remake image with fans

Washington Commanders, Antonio Gibson (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Washington Commanders, Antonio Gibson (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

Two players that fans of the Washington Commanders were excited about at the start of the 2021 season were running back Antonio Gibson and wide receiver Curtis Samuel. Fast forward just one year though, and fans couldn’t be much colder on them.

What happened?

Well, for Samuel the answer is pretty simple. The wide receiver joined the Washington Commanders after spending the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers *insert a joke about Ron Rivera bringing in every possible Carolina player here*. Samuel improved every year with the Panthers and was the first legit wide receiver Washington was going to have opposite Terry McLaurin.

Coming off the back of a season that saw him set career-highs in receptions (77), receiving yards (851), and rushing yards (200), expectations were high. Samuel caught six passes for 27 yards and ran for 11 yards in just five games. Injuries severely limited his playing time, and clearly hampered him even when he was on the field.

Okay, whatever. It was a rough year with a lot of injuries. Fans definitely soured on him a bit, but it wouldn’t be too hard for him to smooth over. Then came training camp, and it didn’t take long for Samuel to get injured again.

This seemed to be the last straw for some fans, who seem to have lost all faith in him. Samuel is currently healthy though. He’s not on the injury report for Week 1. And with Washington’s strong wide receiver corps this year, Samuel could find himself in favorable situations often. Could he feast? Honestly, there’s no reason to believe he won’t be great if he can just stay healthy.

Gibson is a tougher situation though. He lost a lot of goodwill with the fans last season when he led the league in fumbles. The running back did show a lot of promise though. He managed 1,000 rushing yards and can be a serious weapon in the passing game and whenever he gets some open field.

However, Gibson didn’t help his case this preseason. On literally his second carry of the preseason, Gibson fumbled. Things took a sharp decline for the running back from that point. He was soon practicing with kickoff and punt teams. Now, truthfully this was likely a little overblown by the media and fans.

Yes, clearly the coaches were trying to send him a message and trying to figure out something to do with him. And even worse for him, it appeared rookie Brian Robinson had won favor with the coaches. It looked like Gibson wasn’t going to be the starter anymore.

However, he was likely still going to get a decent amount of carries. J.D. McKissic would be strictly third-down situational. Gibson would still get a chance to prove himself. It would be severely limited though, and he might need to show his talents on special teams while he worked his way back to a larger role in the offense.

Tragedy struck Washington though. Robinson was shot (luckily he is as okay as you could probably be) multiple times while being robbed. He’s already shown back up to the team facilities. But the rookie is out of action for (what you would assume to be) a while.

This puts Gibson right back into the starting slot. In fact, he’s probably going to be getting a pretty heavy workload.

Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson both enter the 2022 season with obvious corrections to make. Samuel needs to stay healthy. Gibson needs to hold on to the football. If they can both do that, there’s little doubt that they’ll produce at high levels. And with it, they’ll win their way back into the hearts of Washington Commanders’ fans.