How do Jaguars plan to maximize the efficiency of Travis Etienne in 2024?

• Giving a lighter workload to Travis Etienne would help the Jaguars to get their running game going in 2024.

Carolina Panthers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Carolina Panthers v Jacksonville Jaguars / Mike Carlson/GettyImages
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When the Jacksonville Jaguars are clicking on offense chances are they’re running the ball efficiently. Unfortunately, we rarely saw the Jags move the ball consistently on the ground in 2023, finishing 24th in the NFL for rushing yards per game (96.8), down 10 places from the previous campaign (124.5 yards per game).

There were understandably a lot of expectations on the shoulders of Travis Etienne last season after he racked up 1,125 yards rushing in his first NFL season in 2022. While the Clemson product still posted a 1,000-yard season (1,008) in 2023, opposing defenses shut him down fairly effectively down the stretch.

Travis Etienne's numbers with the Jaguars in 2023

From the early going, the Jaguars' offensive line struggled to open up holes Etienne last season. The speedster took until their fifth game of the season in London versus the Buffalo Bills to hit the century mark on the ground in a single game (136). He failed to better that success the rest of the way, only rushing for 100 yards one more time against the Carolina Panthers (102).

From November until the end of the 2023 season, Etienne rushed for over 50 yards in a game on only two occasions. 

Combine that with the fact that Press Taylor’s offense lost wide receiver Christian Kirk for the final five games of the season, while Trevor Lawrence didn’t appear to be 100 percent since the Cincinnati loss, and it seemed like a recipe for disaster.

It was down the stretch of the season that we saw how little depth the Jags had offensively. Etienne averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2023, after averaging 5.1 the year before.

Travis Etienne workload in 2023

After a sparkling 2022 season, it was no surprise to see Etienne’s workload out of the backfield increase in 2023. According to Yardbarker, he logged 73 percent of the Jags’ offensive snaps this past season. Meanwhile, he had 325 touches (267 carries and 58 catches), the third-most in the NFL. 

That massive workload seemed to take a toll on the Louisiana native as the 2023 season wore on. Etienne posted 849 of his 1,484 yards from scrimmage in the opening eight games of last season while scoring eight of his 12 touchdowns in that same time frame.

Those numbers indicate that fatigue may have factored into his inconsistent performances down the stretch of 2023.

How the Jaguars plan to improve the running game

For the longest time, the Jaguars’ offense has depended heavily on its running game to get by. That hasn’t changed since Doug Pederson arrived in Duval County, though the former Super Bowl-winning head coach hopes to make life a little easier on his star back in 2024.

Speaking to Matthew Berry on NBC’s Pro Football Talk (PFT), Pederson says that Etienne could use some secondary help next season.

“We really like Tank (Bigsby) and he’ll have a bigger impact for us this year. It’s not the recipe, necessarily, to put Travis in that situation. So, I would consider knocking a few of those reps down to keep him healthy throughout the course of the year.”

Pederson adds that D’Ernest Johnson was banged up at times in 2023, so they couldn’t utilize him as much as they wanted. In Bigsby’s rookie year, the second-rounder had just 50 carries for 132 yards, averaging 2.6 yards per carry. He was used primarily in short-yardage situations. Johnson meanwhile had 108 yards rushing on 41 handoffs, a 2.6-yard average.

Jacksonville added depth on the O-line in Mitch Morse and in the receiving game with Gabe Davis, but they’re obviously hoping that more experience could improve their run game in 2024.

The Jags didn’t add any marquee names in free agency, so the ground game will need to be a communal effort if they are to be more successful offensively next season.

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