Jaguars must temper expectations for RB Travis Etienne in Year 2

Travis Etienne Jr. #1 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Travis Etienne Jr. #1 of the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images) /

Running back Travis Etienne will give the Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense a boost nearly one year after suffering a Lisfranc injury in the preseason. However, they should set realistic expectations for the 2021 first-round pick this upcoming season.

There’s no doubt Etienne had a superb collegiate career and if he can play the way he did at Clemson, the Jags wil have a pretty good running attack. Moreover, he has the skill set to contribute in the passing game, having caught 55 plays of 20 or more yards for the Tigers. Based on his talent level, it’s easy to think that he could become a top running back in the NFL but such talks might be a tad premature.

For starters, Etienne isn’t 100 percent healthy yet. He’s still facing the mental hurdles of coming off his first serious injury ever, and he will need to keep getting reps before he fully trusts his foot again. Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports was in attendance for the Jaguars’ Organized Team Activities session Tuesday and says that he “couldn’t stop watching” Etienne.

Jones asked the running back what he thought of getting reps with the wide receivers and he said that he sees it as an opportunity to “do more and be valuable”. Etienne went on to say that football is all about matchups and the more you can do, the more valuable you will become for your team.

"Football is all about matchups, so I mean if I could be like Deebo Samuel, I would love that. Honestly, the game is a game of productivity. If you can produce, the team is always going to have a need for you. It’s just trying to be the best player I can be so I can be on the field at all times”."

It’s too early to call Jaguars RB Travis Etienne the new Deebo Samuel

Just a few months ago, Etienne said he was around 85 o 90 percent back from rehab but he’s gotten positive reviews during the Jaguars’ OTAs. John Shipley of Jaguar Report says the running back looks like his old self and points out that any potential concerns about him not looking explosive should die down.

This is great news for a Jaguars team that will need to lean heavily on Etienne with James Robinson still recovering from the torn Achilles he suffered towards the end of the 2021 season. However, it’s premature to compare Etienne to someone like Deebo Samuel, who was one of the most dominant offensive players in the whole league and earned First-Team All-Pro honors last season.

Sure, the coaching staff could try to use Etienne the way the San Francisco 49ers used Samuel in 2021 but that doesn’t mean the former will have the same kind of impact from the get-go. The potential is there and there’s a reason the Jags made the Louisiana native the 25th overall pick in last year’s draft but they can’t just peg him as the next Deebo Samuel just yet and there are many things that must happen before even considering it. For starters, Etienne must make it to the regular season healthy.

Etienne will be a welcome addition to the Jaguars’ backfield in 2022 and while there’s a chance he will make a significant impact, he shouldn’t be compared to NFL superstars until he does.

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