Travis Etienne and the Jaguars Run Game: A Statistical Deep Dive

How Travis Etienne and the Jaguars' run game performed in 2022 and what to expect in 2023.
Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars
Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Chargers v Jacksonville Jaguars / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Despite only taking over the starting role from James Robinson in Week 6 last year, Travis Etienne accumulated 1,125 rushing yards, five touchdowns, and 316 receiving yards on 35 Receptions. All of this while coming off the Lisfranc injury that sidelined him for his entire rookie year. Etienne now moves into the undisputed starter role for the Jacksonville Jaguars with a stronger cast of backups to help share the rushing load.

Where Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Thrived in 2022

Running outside of the tackles

The Jaguars ranked 3rd in EPA/Play when running outside of the tackles. More notably, they ranked first in EPA/Play running to the left end and it wasn’t even close:

With the Cam Robinson suspension, Walker Little will have an opportunity to prove his run-blocking ability for the first four weeks.

Yards per Target

Etienne’s 7.0 Yards per Target ranked 4th in the NFL among running backs with at least 25 targets. This bested the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, and Saquon Barkley. This also significantly out-performed JaMycal Hasty’s 4.8 Yards per target.

While the Jaguar’s pass-catching depth means that Etienne does not need to be heavily used in the passing game, having an explosive pass-catching back at your disposal helps unlock an extra option in an already-dynamic offense.

Staying Healthy

Coming off the 2021 Lisfranc injury and with a smaller frame, there were concerns that injuries would plague Etienne’s season. Despite this, Etienne did not miss a single game and was only limited due to injury in Week 12 against the Ravens.

This health came despite heavy usage. After Week 6 when Etienne took over the starting role, Etienne played 70 percent of snaps in all but 3 games: 8 percent in the Week 12  Ravens game, 38 in Week 16 against the Texans in a meaningless blowout, and 55% in Week 17 against the Titans.

Where Jaguars RB Travis Etienne Struggled in 2022

Contacted behind the line of scrimmage

When the run blocking was not effective, the running backs struggled. Etienne did not have a single rush of 10+ yards when contacted behind the line of scrimmage and Jaguar’s running backs were held to three or fewer yards at the third-highest rate in the NFL.

This was a bit surprising given Etienne’s explosiveness, but also reveals how important decent run-blocking is to the success of the run game.

Inside Rushing

While the Jaguars were successful rushing outside of the tackles, they were horrible when rushing inside the tackles. The Jaguar’s -.27 EPA/Rush attempt when rushing between the tackles was 31st in the NFL, the Texans being the only team worse.

This is the area that I think rookie Tank Bigsby will help the most. Tank’s more bruising run style will help to establish the physical rushing inside. Additionally, a second-year Luke Fortner will hopefully take a step up and help sure up the run-blocking on the interior.

What to Expect in 2023

Obviously, the addition of Tank Bigsby will bring more of a timeshare to the Jaguar’s backfield. While the timeshare may not be as significant as the 2022 Jaguar’s backfield before the Robinson trade, I would be surprised to see Etienne hit a 75+ percent snap share in many games in 2023.

I am also expecting a more stable, less explosive run game. The rush defenses that the Jaguars will play this year are expected to be the second-best at limited explosive runs. Instead, expect the backfield to be more reliable with close-yardage situations and closing out games where the Jaguars have a lead.

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