Travis Etienne didn’t play in 2021 but he recently made the news because the Jacksonville Jaguars announced they placed him on the COVID-19/Reserve list. However, 2022 will be a whole different deal, as E-T-N will join James Robinson in the Jagas’ backfield to make a lethal running back tandem.
The Jaguars took Etienne with the 25th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. The plan was to pair him with Robinson and have a running back committee. This made sense on paper, as the former Clemson Tiger was a dual-threat back in college and Robinson was coming off a season in which he totaled 1,414 yards from scrimmage, the most by an undrafted rookie in NFL history.
Throughout training camp, Etienne put on display the explosiveness and burst that made him a first-round pick earlier this year. Alas, he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the preseason, which abruptly ended his rookie campaign before it even started. With the Louisiana native on the shelf, Robinson once again became the Jaguars’ lead back and proved he wasn’t a one-year wonder, as he went to rack up 84 carries for 460 yards and five trips to the end zone in the first six games of the season.
Even though Robinson didn’t run the ball more than 18 times in a game in the first six weeks of the season, his rushing yards made the top 10 in the league, and his 90.5 Pro Football Focus overall grade was the highest among running backs. However, it all went sideways in Week 8, when he hurt his heel.
James Robinson didn’t get the support he needed from Urban Meyer.
Robinson missed a game but was back in Week 10. Nevertheless, he only had 12 carries. If he wasn’t fully healthy, the coaching staff shouldn’t have exposed him to further injury. Things didn’t get much better the following two weeks, as the second-year running back fumble the ball in back-to-back weeks, which prompted the former head coach to bench him.
Now, Robinson may or may not have been able to hold onto the ball but benching your best offensive player when you need a spark doesn’t make sense. Trevor Lawrence had to take matters into his own hands so the running back to get back on the field. When pressed about it, Meyer had no reasonable answer for the decision to take Robinson out of the game and instead had running backs coach Bernie Parmalee shoulder the blame.
The situation got the attention of the national media and in the end, Meyer had no choice but to talk to Robinson. Even after he got fired, he didn’t take responsibility for his actions but it was clear he wasn’t fully on board with the running back. In fact, the team might have drafted Etienne precisely because of that.
James Robinson and Travis Etienne should make each other better.
Meyer got fired not long ago and Robinson will be one of many Jaguars players that will benefit from it. Etienne should be healthy next offseason and the team’s next coach will most likely put both Robinson and Etienne in a position to succeed instead of favoring one over the other.
Robinson hasn’t been totally healthy in recent weeks but will have plenty of time. On the other hand, there hasn’t been news about Etienne having a setback in his recovery. Both running backs can catch the ball and are good at making plays when given enough space. The Jaguars currently rank 22nd in rushing yards and 16th in rushing touchdowns. That should change next season with Robinson and Etienne sharing the backfield.
Meyer’s tenure will be remembered for all the missteps he was responsible for. However, one of the few moves he made that can potentially pay off was drafting Etienne. Although it’s too early to tell what kind of impact he will have next year, he and James Robinson should give the Jaguars’ offense a boost.