How the Jaguars Can Help Travis Etienne Make a Mega Impact in 2024

What have the Jaguars done to help running back Travis Etienne this offseason?
Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) runs the ball against Carolina Panthers linebacker Deion Jones (40) in the third quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 31, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. (1) runs the ball against Carolina Panthers linebacker Deion Jones (40) in the third quarter at EverBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports / Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports
In this story:

This offseason, the Duval Devout and NFL media alike had several ideas on how the Jacksonville Jaguars should improve in and around the 2024 NFL Draft. This chatter featured the wide receiver corps, strengthening the offensive line, augmenting the cornerback position, or adding edge rusher depth.

In all of that, there was little conversation about replacing running back Travis Etienne despite the struggles in moving the ball on the ground offensively.

Nonetheless, head coach Doug Pederson was clear in his intention to utilize Etienne in the run game for balance in the coming season while also protecting him from injury. “I think there’s more out there that [Travis] can get, yard-wise,” said Pederson. “It’ll definitely be an emphasis utilizing him more so in the run game and making sure (we get) those yards that are there, that we’re doing the right things, hitting the right holes, we’re anticipating defenders and blocking schemes, and all that kind of stuff”.

If coach has faith in his running back corps led by Etienne, what has improved from last year that can reasonably allow him to expect improvement?

Here are three things that Jacksonville has done that have a MEGA impact to Make Etienne Great Again.

Improving the Interior Line

In what might be the largest consensus among the Duval Devout community, the arrival of Mitch Morse from Buffalo at the center position is low-hanging fruit to bolster the ground attack. He appears to be a clear upgrade as a starter over Luke Fortner. Moreover, under Morse’s veteran tutelage as someone who has been deep in the playoffs, Fortner may also improve as a player so if and when he sees time as the backup, he’ll be a better player.

This is huge because it brings variety back to a Jaguar run game that was predictable to opponents last year. With Fortner’s struggles, Jacksonville would be forced to try to run outside which became more and more predictable as the 2023 season went on and more injuries piled up.

This contributed to the Jaguars run game being the rock bottom of the league in rushing yards before contact – a metric that best shows how often rush attempts were stopped before they could get off the ground. However, Morse may be the key to restoring the threat of the inside run and keeping the defensive front guessing even in obvious run situations or to better set up manageable 3rd downs.

Improvement in Blocking on the Outside

The Jags faced miles of criticism when Calvin Ridley left for Tennessee in this offseason. The volume of that criticism became titanic when Gabe Davis was acquired from the Bills to return to his home state of Florida.


The issue with all that criticism is that it is based on the assumption that Davis is meant to replace Ridley’s role as a stretch receiver. While that is certainly an element of his game (to a lesser extent than Ridley), don’t be surprised if you see him utilized as more of a Zay Jones-type. Like the former Jag-turned-Arizona-Cardinal, Davis could fit nicely in a role running various routes.

But what’s the dimension that allows Davis to improve the run game? His superior blocking ability.

While many NFL receivers aren’t necessarily known for their blocking skills, the phrase “No block, no rock” is something that the former Buffalo wide has carried with him since his college days at UCF back in 2018. It’s another element that can add to the variety of threats and methods that can be utilized to surprise a defense.

Lightening the Box

So if Gabe Davis isn’t meant to replace Calvin Ridley to go streaking down the field, how would Pederson be able to stretch a defense as effectively as he did last year (if not more so)? Welcome to the motivation to draft LSU rookie Brian Thomas Jr. in the 1st round of this year’s draft.

While it’s obvious that he needs to become accustomed to the NFL game, the hope is that opponents are eventually forced to respect his deep route ability enough to keep a safety from sneaking into the box to supplement a run defense.

Should that pay off, either Etienne will have a better running performance this year or the kid they call “BT” will have some electric touchdowns to excite the Duval Devout and light up the scoreboard.

While they aren’t all direct impacts, these are things that could all help the Jacksonville Jaguars make Etienne great again.


Published
Kyle Nash

KYLE NASH