Despite the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars’ roster didn’t get a particularly high spot in a recent power ranking, they are stacked at certain positions, including wide receiver and cornerback. Moreover, they seem to be set at quarterback, with Trevor Lawrence firmly entrenched as the starter. However, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus believes the Jags’ running back room is their biggest strength ahead of training camp.
Monson recently discussed each NFL team’s biggest strengths and weaknesses and thinks that the Jaguars’ backfield is currently in good shape due to the presence of sophomore Travis Etienne and James Robinson.
"Travis Etienne missing his entire rookie season has resulted in a lot of “out of sight, out of mind”, but Etienne has the athletic profile to be a game-breaker in the NFL. Whatever cross-training he was doing before injury as a wide receiver can only help his potential to make an impact on an offense that also boasts James Robinson in the backfield. This is a duo that could form a phenomenal one-two punch, particularly if the passing game can improve in Year 2 of Trevor Lawrence."
Etienne was one of the top running-back prospects coming out of Clemson. Back in college, he logged 55 plays of 20 yards or more and totaled 78 combined touchdowns. The Louisiana native was expected to be a dual-threat and give the Jaguars’ offense an extra dimension last year. However, he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the preseason that forced him to sit out his whole rookie campaign. He’s now healthy though and should become the playmaker the team’s brass thought he was when they selected him fifth overall in the draft.
The Jaguars need to wait for James Robinson to make a full recovery
While it’s true that Etienne and Robinson will form a dynamic duo, Monson failed to mention that the latter is currently recovering from a torn Achilles late in the 2021 season and his availability for training camp is currently in question.
If Etienne manages to say healthy, he can hold the fort while Robinson makes a full recovery and returns, which will probably happen once the 2022 season has already started. With Etienne carrying the load, the coaching staff can afford not to rush Robinson back. They should be able to lean on Ryquell Armstead, who had a solid outing against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18 last year.
However, the dropoff from Etienne to Armstead would be significant. Similarly, rookie Snoop Conner is expected to have a reserve role and get a few carries per game. But it’s hard to tell how he would fare in a featured one after being part of a committee at Ole Miss.
Running back can indeed be a strength for the Jaguars but for that to happen, Etienne must stay healthy and Robinson needs to return from injury, which is surely the scenario the Jaguars envision in 2022.