Moeller: Huge Part of the Jaguars’ Success this Fall will Hinge on Etienne and Robinson

 By Jeff Moeller

It was the anticipated match the Jaguars believed would solidify their backfield.Two 2021 first-round draft picks making a difference in the starting lineup.  

Clemson teammates Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne were drafted and slated to make each other’s transition to the NFL easier. 

However, it never came to fruition for both of them. Lawrence worked his way through the season, but Etienne could only watch from the sidelines.

Etienne was shelved early for the year due to a Lisfranc injury. He was supposed to be part of the tandem with James Robinson, one that presumably would solve the Jags’ running problem. Etienne also could prove to be valuable, swinging out of the backfield to catch passes, while Robinson would run north and south.

Robinson, whose capability was muzzled by former head coach Irwin Meyer, began to show his worth after Meyer was fired. But Robinson’s good fortune ended when he went down with a torn achilles. The second-year back still managed 989 yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

The Jags’ 2021 running back woes added to Meyer’s antics, overall injuries, the inconsistent play from the offensive line, and Lawrence’s growing pains that quickly deflated any anticipated extended success.

That was then, this is now. Most of the Jags’ problems should be able to be put behind them.

Doug Peterson’s hire brought a feeling of instant stability to the franchise. Lawrence understood his mistakes and how to correct them. The overall offensive and defensive units seemed to play with a better sense of commitment and discipline.

Yet, a huge part of the Jaguars’ success this fall will hinge on Etienne and Robinson. 

Jags’ new offensive coordinator Press Taylor has praised Etienne’s speed, footwork, flexibility, and versatility in OTA’s, and he expects him to have a breakout year. 

“The speed’s real,” said Taylor about Etienne. ” I mean that was obviously something everybody knew coming out of college not having a chance to see a lot of the stuff he was able to do last year because he wasn’t able to play, so the speed’s very real. He did a good job of just showing understanding of the different roles we’re trying to see.”

Eteinne’s early showing has alleviated the pressure from Robinson to return to the lineup from his Achilles injury. Robinson has shown progress, but he admittedly will take his time to get back in the lineup.

 With training camp scheduled to begin within the next two weeks, Etienne will be the spotlight. He is the Jags’ feature back until Robinson returns. Other running backs on the current roster are fifth-round pick Snoop Carter along with Ryquell Armstrong, Nathan Cottrell, and Mekhi Sargent.  

Etienne rushed for 4,995 yards and had 1,155 receiving yards over his four years at Clemson. He’ll be expected to produce similar numbers with the Jags. Etienne has the capacity to be the same type of back Fred Taylor was back in the day.

It may be a lot to ask for someone who hasn’t had an NFL carry.

Still, a healthy and effective Etienne can turn the tide. 

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