The Jacksonville Jaguars have continued to look at all available options to improve their backfield ahead of this month's NFL Draft, though they came up short in a pursuit for a talented veteran running back on Monday.
Eighth-year running back Giovani Bernard signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, giving last year's Super Bowl champions a talented third-down running back to surround Tom Brady with. But before Bernard signed with the Buccaneers, he reportedly saw initial interest from the Jaguars, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
It isn't surprising to see the Jaguars have interest in Bernard before he ended up signing elsewhere. The Jaguars have a serious need at the running back position, even if James Robinson is fresh off a rookie season in which he cracked 1,000 yards and set numerous undrafted rookie records.
Bernard would have filled that need in a major way, even if he has never been a lead back and hasn't cracked 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2015. Bernard is one of the best pass-blocking running backs in the NFL and has consistently produced as a receiver. While Robinson adds value in both of these regards, Bernard brings more quickness and shiftiness to the offense.
The Jaguars did sign one running back in free agency, adding veteran rusher former Urban Meyer running back Carlos Hyde in March. But while Hyde brings experience and helps the Jaguars fill out their depth chart, the Jaguars need a running back in the mold of Bernard and not Hyde -- a running back who can make plays in the passing game and be a quarterback's most trusted ally on every third down.
"Right now, James [Robinson] obviously had a tremendous year, especially when you factor in how he entered the league as a college free agent, 1,000 plus yards, very consistent performer week in and week out, tough, has a great mindset, the type of player we’re looking for. But we have to add some explosiveness to that room as well and we have to be able to take some of the carries off of James," Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke said on March 10.
"You can only ride a horse so long. He’s done a great job, he will continue to do a great job for the organization, and we feel he’ll even take a step forward from where he was a year ago. But adding some competitiveness to that room, we feel we’ve got some guys in house that can compete for roles, but we’re certainly looking to add to that room as well.”
With Bernard now set to play for Tampa Bay and not Jacksonville, the Jaguars will have to look to this month's draft to find the explosive element they are missing in the backfield.
The Jaguars could look to draft Clemson running back Travis Etienne to reunite him with quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is set to be the Jaguars' pick at No. 1 overall on April 29. If not Etienne, other backs such as Kenneth Gainwell, Kylin Hill, and Michael Carter fit the Jaguars' need for an explosive third-down back.