If the start of Jacksonville's training camp has indicated anything, it is that the Jaguars' deep group of running backs are going to get the football.
James Robinson is fresh off a year where he rushed for over 1,000 yards and produced as a pass-catcher. Travis Etienne is the No. 25 overall pick who is handling a multitude of duties for the Jaguars' offense, all while being a season removed from becoming the ACC's all-time leading rusher.
"That’s what we need, you know I feel like this game is built that way," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said on Thursday.
"I know Coach Meyer believes that — that you run the ball first and that we want to able to kind of exert our will on the opponent. It helps us do other things in the pass game and get big plays in the pass game — those kinds of things are what we’re looking to do. To have a number of backs back there — I think there are a lot of guys that are looking really good and it’s just better for us."
Using the running game to create favorable matchups and explosive plays has long been the staple of Bevell's past offenses, along with Meyer's and passing game coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. In an age where teams are looking to spread the field and air it out, the Jaguars appear poised to lean on the rushing attack.
Meyer said throughout the offseason that he wanted to create a strong running game to support the team's rookie quarterback, who would go on to become No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence. While the Jaguars have yet to name a starting quarterback, instead opting to rotate Lawrence and Gardner Minshew on Wednesday and Thursday, it is clear Lawrence will eventually be the signal-caller in Week 1.
And to ensure that Lawrence is supported to the highest degree possible, the Jaguars are looking to give their rookie passer a pair of safety blankets in the offense in Robinson and Etienne but also in the position as a whole.
The Jaguars' entire running back room, which also consists of Carlos Hyde, Devine Ozigbo, Dare Ogunbowale, and Nathan Cottrell has been active in training camp both as rushers and as pass-catchers, making it clear the emphasis the Jaguars' offense will place on the position.
Robinson will likely lead the room after a stellar rookie season. In 14 starts, the undrafted rookie from Illinois State broke undrafted free agent records as he rushed for 1,070 yards, recorded 1,414 yards from scrimmage, scored 10 touchdowns, and was among the league's most productive backs from Week 1 to the final week of the season.
“Well I mean first of all the guy is undrafted and you know to come in here and watch what he did last year I think was a huge accomplishment for him," Bevell said about Robinson on Thursday.
"He is kind of a quiet guy so you know it’s been kind of fun getting to know him. He is very physical and, you know, love what he can do with the ball in his hands and he is going to get his fair share of doing that.”
Robinson was the sole running back to be a factor in the Jaguars' 2020 season. The next leading rusher was Ogunbowale with just 32 carries -- an average of two per game. When the Jaguars ran the ball, it was Robinson's show.
But the reason to believe Robinson can still be featured in a crowded backfield could be the fact that the Jaguars were also among the most pass-heavy teams in 2020 as a result of their constant time spent trailing. A Jaguars team that doesn't attempt the most passes in the league would be able to divert a lot more touches to the backfield.
A lot of those touches will likely go to Etienne. The Jaguars didn't spend the No. 25 overall pick on Etienne to not use him each week, so the question is more so how he will get the ball as opposed to if he will get the ball.
"Yes, I mean yeah we’re trying to again put him in those hard situations and you know we’re trying to make it as difficult as we can on him," Bevell said about Etienne on Thursday.
"Give him a lot and then again we will kind of hone it down and get him exactly where we want him."
The Jaguars' offense will run through Lawrence in 2021 and every season in the near future. But while that will be the case, there is no question the Jaguars plan to deploy their running back room to prop up their top pick, even if it means bucking some current conventional thoughts.
As for how the touches will be divided, that is for Bevell, Meyer, Schottenheimer and the Jaguars' running back room to decide over the next few weeks.
"Oh no, I don’t know yet," Robinson said about the potential ratio of touches among the group.
"Whenever everyone gets their opportunity, we’re going to go out there and do our jobs, so that is all we’re worried about.