Jaguars backfield earns unfavorable distinction ahead of training camp

Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (25) at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports /

Evaluating the Jacksonville Jaguars’ backfield could be a tough task. If you look at the group from a glass-half-full point of view, the position could be the Jags’ biggest strength in 2022. On the other hand, running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne both suffered injuries last year, which makes it hard to assess the impact they will have in the regular season. Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report decided to err on the side of caution and ranked them as one of the worst in the NFL.

Knox recently drew up a list of the worst running back groups in the NFL and the Jaguars made the cut at No. 5. Knox argues that Jacksonville’s group has “the potential to be better” than one of the worst five but notes that the uncertainly surrounding Robinson and Etienne makes it difficult not to include them.

"Starter James Robinson was a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie in 2020 and was again solid in 2021. His yards-per-carry average actually jumped from 4.5 to 4.7. However, he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 16."

Robinson hasn’t had setbacks in his recovery and has already resumed training. However, he won’t probably be available for training camp, so the Jaguars’ coaching staff will lean on Travis Etienne, who is also coming off a serious injury.

"No. 2 back Travis Etienne missed his entire 2021 rookie campaign with a Lisfranc injury. He projects as a valuable runner and receiver, and his history with quarterback Trevor Lawrence at Clemson does boost his upside. But s is the case with Robinson, we have no idea how quickly Etienne will find his groove."

Knox doesn’t believe the Jags have “a proven vet to provide insurance” at running back and thinks that it’s hard to rank a unit highly based solely on potential. The other backfields that made the list were the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Rams, the Atlanta Falcons, and the Houston Texans.

The Jaguars are counting on Travis Etienne and James Robinson in 2022

Knox has a point, it’s hard to predict a player’s performance coming off injuries. Having said that, Etienne himself has said that the injury is behind him and practiced without restrictions during the team’s minicamp. Training camp might not be any different for the Clemson Tiger.

On the other hand, Robinson is still rehabbing from the torn Achilles he suffered late in the 2021 season but with a healthy Etienne, there’s no reason to rush his recovery. Moreover, Ryquell Armstead and Snoop Conner should be able to hold the fort.

After missing the 2020 season due to COVID-19, Armstead was released last year and spent time with a few teams before returning to Jacksonville. Against the Colts in Week 18, he racked up 52 rushing yards, and two first downs on just nine carries. Meanwhile, Cooner was part of a running back committee at Ole Miss and he will likely have a similar role in the Jaguars’ backfield.

It’s possible that the Jaguars feel confident that both Etienne and Robinson will make a full recovery. Maybe that’s why they didn’t add anyone else besides Conner in the offseason. Either way, there seems to be a plan in place and once Etienne and Robinson are back, they could form one of the league’s most dynamic duos in the league.

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