It is almost that time. The Dallas Cowboys will be on the clock making their selection in the first round before we know it. Ahead of the NFL Draft, Mike McCarthy, Jerry and Stephen Jones, and company held a pre-draft press conference. Many of the questions presented to the crew revolved around the contract status of quarterback Dak Prescott. Though, the presser did provide a little bit of information what McCarthy’s offensive strategy and philosophy will be.
Coach McCarthy said that he sees the most important part of the coaching transition is to keep as much language in place that they can. He noted that it is going to be a different offense but that they want to build off of what was done conceptually with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and the offensive line.
McCarthy explained that he would like to build off the success of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and the offensive line in Dallas. That makes sense, of course, because Dallas was statistically the best offense in the National Football League for much of the 2019 regular season.
That said, it would be safe to assume that the former Green Bay Packers and Super Bowl-winning head coach will bring some of his previous ideas to America’s Team. One thing that stood out to me while watching those Packers team was that Green Bay seemingly always had a gadget-type or Swiss-army knife kind of player in the offense alongside Aaron Rodgers. Two of those were young Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery.
Both Cobb and Montgomery were very versatile players in their primes with McCarthy and the Packers. Montgomery, in particular, was used all over the offense — lining up at wide receiver and in the backfield. It was quite a site to see a player wearing a number in the 80’s line up in the backfield.
Packers Wire’s Zach Kruse wrote on McCarthy’s use of Montgomery back in 2018, writing that part of the reason the former Packers coach utilized Montgomery in such a way was to force “the defense to show part of their hand” and give the quarterback “pre-snap clues”.
The Packers have a unique weapon at running back. His ability as a receiver stresses defensive personnel, especially when he’s motioned out of the backfield. It forces the defense to show part of their hand, and those pre-snap clues are invaluable for Aaron Rodgers.
With that in mind, is McCarthy looking to add a player with that capability through this year’s draft? There is a name on the current roster that immediately comes to mind: rising second-year running back Tony Pollard. Pollard played a ton of receiver and running back during his collegiate career before being drafted to play primarily in the backfield during his rookie year. BTB’s own Matt Holleran wrote on Pollard deserving a larger role in the offense next season.
The former Memphis Tiger has tons of experience at the receiver position and caught 139 passes for 941 yards in his college career. Unless the Cowboys draft a receiver in the first or second round, they likely will not have a go-to slot man who needs to always be on the field. Letting Pollard take some of these reps would even more confuse defenses and let him do what he does best, make plays in space.
But what if the perfect fit for this kind of role is actually a former teammate of Pollard?
That’s right — Memphis has another Swiss-army knife weapon entering the NFL that will hear his name called in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft. Last year it was Pollard, this year it is Antonio Gibson.
I don’t care if you see Antonio Gibson as a WR or RB, this dude is an offensive weapon. Great athleticism, contact balance, and receiving ability.— Nick Farabaugh (@FarabaughFB) April 17, 2020
I think he ends up being more RB that can be split out the slot in a pinch. Exciting player.
Gibson, a Georgia native that went the JUCO route and earned offers from Power-5 schools such as Kentucky and Colorado, starred at Memphis during the 2019 college football season. This was after a quiet initial season in West Tennessee while sitting behind a pair of future NFL backs: Pollard and Darrell Henderson of the Rams. He became a huge factor in Mike Norvell’s offensive system. Norvell is now the head coach at Florida State.
Norvell found many different ways to get the ball into his playmaker’s hands. Gibson was a big factor in the running game, in the passing game, and on special teams. Overall, the former three-star recruit totaled 1,104 yards and 12 touchdowns from scrimmage, while adding 645 yards and another touchdown as a kick returner over the course of his senior season. He averaged over 16 yards per catch against the Penn State Nittany Lions in AT&T Stadium this past January. Simply put: good things happened when Gibson touched the rock.
Backing up the film, Gibson tested well in Indianapolis, which only helps his claim to be a big part in an offense on the professional level. The Memphis product’s 4.39 40-yard dash is is in the 93rd percentile for skill position players, according to mockdraftable. At 6-foot, 228 pounds, Gibson also added a 35” vertical jump.
Memphis WR/RB Antonio Gibson is a really interesting prospect.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) April 17, 2020
Absolutely electric no matter how he's involved - a it's a big-play waiting to happen.
6'0", 228 pounds, 21-years old.
4.39 40 time.
Can play multiple positions.
Has plus return ability.
Tough runner to bring down. pic.twitter.com/HvR61Rb6L1
USA Today’s Doug Farrar calls Gibson “the most explosive player in the 2020 NFL Draft”. It would be very hard to argue that claim considering how dynamic, versatile, and explosive the former Memphis Tiger is.
After Henderson went to the Rams and Pollard to the Cowboys in the 2019 draft, Gibson got his shot, and he didn’t waste it. He posted 38 catches for 735 yards and eight touchdowns, adding 33 carries for 369 yards and four more scores.
Yes, that’s right. Gibson averaged 11.2 yards per carry. Moreover, he proved to be absolutely ridiculous when it came to breaking tackles. He broke 16 tackles on his 33 carries and 17 tackles on his 38 receptions, according to Pro Football Focus. Small sample size, yes, but those numbers are just insane when a broken tackle rate of 25% is shooting par. And as crazy as the numbers are, Gibson’s 2019 game tape is even more preposterous.
The NFL is a league that is always evolving. As we saw with the Kansas City Chiefs this past season, you can never have too many weapons on your offense. Pollard is an intriguing player that oozed tons of potential — especially in his 100-yard+ rushing performances against Miami and Los Angeles last season — but that should not prevent McCarthy and the Cowboys from adding another do-it-all playmaker.
More notes on Antonio Gibson.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) April 17, 2020
Averaged 19.3 yards per reception.
Averaged 11.2 yards per carry.
Gained 1,749 total yards in 2019.
Scored 13 total TDs in 2019.
Didn't fumble in his college career.
His play reminds me of a bigger Percy Harvin in Florida - that's his comp. pic.twitter.com/rrAN07gek7
Below is every target and rush from the All-22 angle in Gibson’s outstanding performance against SMU in 2019, in which he totaled 227 all-purpose yards, 159 kickoff yards, and two total touchdowns.
Antonio Gibson is a player that should make an immediate impact in the NFL if he is drafted to a coaching staff that is willing to get him the ball as both as a receiver and a rusher. Pollard is a solid back already on the roster, but Gibson would provide Dallas with another explosive playmaker that can score from anywhere on the field.