For all of the potential he’d flashed in his rookie season and the glimpses of it he’d shown again in the preseason and opening weeks of the regular season, Gibson simply couldn’t get the handle on what it would take to become the player Jackson knew he could be.
“Consistency,” Jackson said. “I told Brandon earlier in the season when he was going through that funk that he was going through I told him the only thing that’s stopping him from being a play maker, having a breakout season is he was being inconsistent.”
Indeed, the start of the 2010 season was far from what Gibson had envisioned after he came to the Rams in the middle of last year and immediately began to show enough promise to earn a starting role.
On the day of the 2009 trade deadline, the Rams acquired Gibson as part of a package for linebacker Will Witherspoon. Soon, he was starting and by the time the year was over, he had accumulated 34 catches for 348 yards and a touchdown in 10 games with four starts.
Preseason injuries combined with the aforementioned inconsistency and the lack of a role on special teams kept Gibson on the sidelines all together.
That’s not exactly what he had in mind coming into his second season.
“You go from not playing at all in Philadelphia and just kind of watching and observing guys like DeSean Jackson and Donovan McNabb and all of a sudden stepping into a starting role somewhat and then stepping back and then starting again,” Gibson said. “It’s been up and down but I try to keep my head level and play the game.”
After he overcame those preseason injuries, including a nagging hamstring issue, Gibson found himself healthy but inactive for the first two games of the season. Eventually, injuries began catching up to the receivers, losing
In week three against Washington, Gibson was plugged back into the lineup, catching three passes for 33 yards. The following week against Seattle, Gibson caught a touchdown in the opening quarter to set the tone for the game.
But the solid start was marred by a case of the dropsies that lasted for the next couple of games.
In the Oct. 31 game against Carolina, Gibson hauled in six catches for 67 yards. Since, he and Bradford have developed a strong rapport and Bradford seems more than comfortable getting the ball to Gibson.
“We just try to be on the same page whether in practice or watching film and understanding each other and me being in the right spot,” Gibson said. “That’s about it.”
Never was that rapport more evident than last week against Atlanta when Gibson lined up in one on one coverage on the outside and immediately knew that he was going to get a chance to catch another touchdown from Bradford.
“It was man to man coverage on the outside and I knew Sam was coming to me as soon as I lined up so I just wanted to leave a good edge so Sam could throw me a good ball,” Gibson said. “He put it up there perfectly and all I had to do was come up with it.”
The result was a 13-yard touchdown catch that briefly gave the Rams a third-quarter lead. But what it means on a bigger scale in terms of the connection between Gibson and Bradford and Bradford and all of the receivers is even more meaningful in the big picture.
“I think me and Gibby have definitely started to have a really good connection,” Bradford said. I think really now any one of our wide receivers could tell me before the snap who they think is getting the ball and they are probably right just based on the looks we’re getting. I think everyone is starting to get on the same page as far as where we are going to go with the ball in certain looks.”
With each passing week, Gibson certainly seems to be more comfortable in his role in the offense as well as his knowledge of it.
Receivers coach Nolan Cromwell has only worked with Gibson for this season but he says he’s seen a lot to like from the young wideout.
“He’s done a good job,” Cromwell said. “He was here last year so he has some experience. He learns well, he learns fast. He’s done a nice job. I’m very encouraged because he’s getting better every week and he’s working hard to be a complete receiver.”
Maybe more than anything, it’s that aspect of Gibson’s performance that has flown under the radar.
Gibson has worked hard to be an effective downfield blocker and he’s been noticeable in some big plays that Jackson has been able to make, including a 42-yard touchdown run in that Washington game.
“I just try to hit somebody,” Gibson said. “It was big for my college coach that if you didn’t block, you didn’t play. So I just want to go out there and make sure I am in front of my guy and give him an opportunity to make a cut in or out.”
For the season, Gibson has 31 catches for 342 yards, good for second on the team in both categories. It’s clear that Gibson is playing with a lot more confidence as the year goes on.
“I try to play confident from start to end,” Gibson said. “When you are confident your play shows it and that’s who I want to be.”
As for the consistency, perhaps it’s been bred by that confidence. In the past three weeks, Gibson has 19 catches.
“I think that’s the underlying thing when you look at any guy that’s a play maker or a great player,” Jackson said. “Over the years, you know what you can get out of this individual and I think Brandon wasn’t giving us that then. Now he is.”