Running back set to be a strength for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2023 NFL Season
The Jacksonville Jaguars had a solid running back group last year but that didn't stop them from making a couple of key additions in the offseason. And even though the Jags have built their offense around Trevor Lawrence, running back is one of their biggest strengths ahead of the 2023 season.
For starters, Travis Etienne returns as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart. The former Clemson Tiger spent his rookie campaign rehabbing a Lisfranc injury he suffered in the preseason. He then began the 2022 season behind James Robinson. However, the Jaguars paved the way for Etienne to have a featured role on offense when they traded Robinson to the New York Jets.
Etienne ended up toting the rock 220 times for 1,125 yards with five touchdowns. He should once again be the starter in 2023 but the Jaguars' brass bolstered their running back room in the offseason to keep him fresh through the season.
Besides bringing back JaMycal Hasty on an affordable two-year deal, Jacksonville signed D'Ernest Johnson in free agency and later used a third-round pick to draft Auburn's Tanks Bigsby. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff splits their running backs' workload but there's a chance they'll lean on a committee.
How will the Jacksonville Jaguars running back depth chart look in 2023?
Barring serious injury, Etienne will get most of the carries and if the Jags hadn't drafted Bigsby, Johnson could have also gotten a robust amount of carries. However, Bigsby will compete for the right to sit behind Etienne on the depth chart. Then again, Johnson has shown he can be an effective player when called upon, so he won't give up without a fight.
Worst case scenario, Bigsby gets more carries than Johnson but the latter gets extended playing time on special teams. Doug Pederson said earlier this year that he would like to have three or four running backs in the rotation and added that he would like to have one of them contribute on special teams. Johnson could fill that role.
Hasty has delivered when called upon but he might tumble down the depth chart after the arrival of Bigsby and Johnson. Hasty was a waiver wire pickup last year that saw an increased workload when Robinson was traded to the Jets. While he's a fine player, Bigsby and Johnson are more talented, so there's a chance he'll be the No. 4 option on the totem pole.
By now, you might be wondering where sophomore Snoop Conner, a 2022 fifth-round pick, stands but the truth is that he might be a victim of the numbers games. Unless he makes a huge impression, he might not make the 53-man roster.
After all, the former Ole Miss was a healthy scratch early in 2022 and he only got playing time after Robinson was shipped to the Big Apple. If the Jaguars' brass felt more confident about Conner, they might not have signed Johnson or drafted Bigsby. While teams should always look for ways to improve, all the additions to the Jaguars' running back room don't bode well for Conner's future in Jacksonville.
In the end, running back wasn't a need for the Jacksonville Jaguars but that didn't stop them from making upgrades to the position regardless. They will probably lean on Trevor Lawrence's arm to win games but if they situation calls for it, they can unleash their deep running back group.