Running back Travis Etienne lived up to his draft billing in 2022, totaling over 1,400 yards from scrimmage. The fact that he had a productive season despite the fact that he missed his rookie campaign with a Lisfranc injury makes his success even more impressive. That said, he's been relatively quiet in 2023. The Jacksonville Jaguars must correct that and get him heavily involved against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4.
Etienne averaged 5.2 yards per carry last year. This season, that number has gone down to 4.2. Although that's still solid, it's not the one you come to expect from a player who has consistently shown the ability to gain yards in chunks.
The past three games, Etienne has shown he's still the playmaker he was last year. He's forced a league-high 20 missed tackles this season, per Pro Football Focus. Heck, you could even argue he's better after spending the offseason working on being a more decisive running back. The issue is that the Jaguars offensive line hasn't been able to open lanes.
Running to the right was a futile effort the first two weeks of the season. Although rookie right tackle Anton Harrison made strides and was much better in run-blocking situations in Week 3, he still has room for improvement. Similarly, right guard Brandon Scherff has been solid but not nearly as dominant as he was during his stint with the Washington Commanders.
The Jaguars are currently 1-2 and one reason is their inability to feature Etienne. He's averaged 16 carries in the last three games. Simply, Jacksonville needs to give him the ball and let him work his magic.
The Jaguars need to establish the run vs. the Falcons
The Jaguars gain zero or fewer yards on 13 percent of their running attempts, per Warren Sharp. That's not a bad number and they'll have a favorable matchup against a Falcons defense that ranks 18th in yards allowed. This should give them the opportunity to establish the run early.
On the other hand, Atlanta has given up just one rushing touchdown this season. Then again, the Jaguars have deployed rookie Tank Bigsby in goal-line situations, so don't expect heavy doses of Travis Etienne once Jacksonville gets to the Falcons' red zone.
Still, the Jaguars should feed Etienne the ball early and often in Week 4. They tried that approach against the Kansas City Chiefs without much success but they have a more favorable matchup against Atlanta.
If the Jags can get the running game going against Atlanta, they will take lots of pressure off Trevor Lawrence's shoulders. The third-year quarterback has been playing well despite the fact that he's not getting much help from his receivers. By getting Etienne involved, Lawrence won't be pressed to take the game on his hands and try to do too much.
The Jaguars have a pretty good running back in Travis Etienne. They must now make sure he's an important part of the offense against the Falcons and beyond.