The Jacksonville Jaguars finally have some options beyond Travis Etienne Jr.
Etienne sat out his rookie season after suffering a significant tear in the Lisfranc zone of his foot. That allowed for the emergence of James Robinson, who had an inside track at the starting job in 2022, but returning from an Achilles injury and a “nagging” knee issue derailed any chance at a 1-2 punch in Jacksonville’s backfield last season. Robinson was later traded to the New York Jets and the job solely belonged to Etienne, who accounted for 74% of the team’s running back carries from then on.
According to ESPN’s Michael DiRocco, that’s a trend that the Jaguars don’t want to see continue. And that would explain some of the team’s offseason moves, as they addressed the running back position, despite already having a 1,000-yard rusher in Etienne on its roster.
Etienne accounted for 74% of the running back carries after that point, a workload that the Jaguars didn’t want to see continue.
Hence the signing of Johnson, who ran for 738 yards in four seasons with the Cleveland Browns – which included 534 yards in 2021 when he subbed for injured backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt – and the drafting of Bigsby, who ran for 2,903 yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons at Auburn. With Hasty and Conner returning, the Jaguars no longer have to rely so heavily on Etienne.
To shore up their backfield this offseason, the Jaguars signed D’Ernest Johnson to pair with Etienne, JaMycal Hasty and Snoop Cooner. However, Jacksonville didn’t stop there and used its third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft on former Auburn Tigers running back Tank Bigsby.
“I feel like it keeps the wear and tear off my body,” said Etienne, via ESPN. “I don’t have to go and bang myself up each and every play. I’ve got somebody else to take a couple licks off of me and I love that.”
Etienne emerged as one of the top running backs in the National Football League in just his first season. He accounted for 1,441 yards from scrimmage as he served as Jacksonville’s bell cow back for his rookie campaign. While he may not reach those same stats with a decreased workload in 2023, it’s pretty clear how much Jacksonville values Etienne and it doesn’t want to run the 24-year-old into the ground in just his second full season.
[ESPN; photo from Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports]