Gibson Finding A Home In The Slot

Posted Aug 27, 2013

Wide receiver leads team in receptions while still getting a feel for playing the slot.

Brandon Gibson is about to enter his fifth NFL season, but this summer has been a new experience for him.

The most obvious change for Gibson is wearing a Dolphins uniform after spending the last three-plus seasons with the St. Louis Rams. The not-so-subtle change is that while Gibson is still a wide receiver, he’s actually learning a new spot on offense.

After playing on the outside for the Rams, Gibson has been lining up in the slot throughout training camp and the preseason. It’s a role that’s very important in the Dolphins offense because, based on what we’ve seen this summer, there will be a lot of snaps with three wide receivers on the field.

Gibson says he’s still getting a feel for playing the slot, but he seems off to a pretty good start.

“I feel like I’m getting better and better each and every snap I take,” Gibson said. “It’s a work in progress for me, but my thing is I want to make sure I’m open and Ryan (Tannehill) has a good place to throw the ball.”

As the Dolphins head into their final preseason game Thursday night, Gibson leads the team with nine preseason catches, good for 96 yards and a touchdown.

When the first-team offense played the entire first half against Tampa Bay Saturday night, Gibson led all receivers in the game with five catches for 43 yards and the Dolphins’ only touchdown of the game.

“I’ve seen him every day at practice,” fellow wide receiver Mike Wallace said. “He does this every day. To me it’s nothing new. He’s just doing what he does. He’s a guy who makes crazy catches. Really smart player. He does it every day in practice.”

Gibson actually wasn’t very impressed with his performance Saturday night because he also had a couple of drops, including one in the end zone on the drive preceding his touchdown.

The drop in the end zone, Gibson said, was part of the learning involved in playing the slot.

“That’s one thing I have to get used to is working through all the trash and finding my way and getting my eyes back to the quarterback once I clear all the trash,” Gibson said. “As an example (Saturday night), I’ve just got to make sure I get my eyes (to the quarterback), the ball is low inside, but I’ve got to be able to make that play.”

The truth is Gibson has made his share of plays since the start of camp. And the Dolphins no doubt will be counting on him to keep making those throughout the regular season.

That’s what prompted the Dolphins to sign Gibson on March 15, the fourth day of free agency. Gibson came to the Dolphins after his best season as an NFL player, which included 51 catches for 691 yards and five touchdowns.

Gibson joined a wide receiver corps that features Wallace and Brian Hartline, who is coming off a 1,000-yard season, to give the Dolphins a potent threesome.

With Wallace and Hartline slated to start on the outside, it was up to Gibson to learn the slot position.

“He’s been coming a long ways for us,” Tannehill said. “He’s kind of new to this (because) he didn’t play in the slot last year, so he’s learned a lot, come a long way since the spring and continuously getting better. You can see him just getting more comfortable running the routes and really did a great job getting open (Saturday). That’s what we brought him here to do, win in the slot for us. I think he’s going to do that all year.”

That first half against Tampa Bay might have provided a glimpse of what the three wide receivers could accomplish, as they were on the receiving end of 12 of Tannehill’s 17 completions.

“I feel like everybody most of the half got into a good rhythm and got better and better as it went on, Hartline making big plays on third down and Mike capitalizing when he gets a chance,” Gibson said. “I think we’re coming along just fine.

“I think us three have a lot of special talent and abilities to get open and make plays after the catch. Our thing is if we’ve got to live in three-wide, that’s what we’ll do. We’ve just got to make plays when the ball comes our way.”
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