The Jacksonville Jaguars got bad news on Travis Etienne's injured foot on Tuesday morning, throwing a wrench into the plans of an offense that has already found rough sledding through two preseason games.
Etienne, the No. 25 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, played three snaps in Monday's preseason game against the New Orleans Saints before leaving with a foot injury. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter on Tuesday, further testing revealed the injury will require surgery that could potentially end Etienne's rookie season.
Jaguars' head coach Urban Meyer called Etienne's injury a foot sprain following the 23-21 loss, but said the team did not yet know the severity of the injury.
"He’s shown me great talent," Meyer said following the game. "We were planning on using him, and I look up and he is limping off of the field. He was out in the open space.....I see what everyone else sees, a talented guy who we’ve got to get in space.”
UPDATE: The Jaguars have placed Etienne on injured reserve, ending his rookie season.
Etienne touched the ball twice in Monday's game, rushing once for one yard and catching one pass for three yards.
What does Etienne's injury mean for the Jaguars' offense? Considering Meyer spent considerable time boasting about the element that Etienne's speed would bring to the unit, with Meyer going as far as to call Etienne a "slash" player, this seems like the new biggest question facing Jacksonville ahead of the 2021 season.
To get a better understanding of the fallout of Etienne's injury, here are four things the injury means for the offense moving forward in the near future. From what it means for the depth chart to Etienne's rookie season, we break it down below.
James Robinson is a certified centerpiece of the offense
James Robinson was already the Jaguars' starting running back before Etienne was injured on Monday night, contrary to the belief that Etienne's draft slot would force him onto the field. Robinson got the starting reps in all of the 17 training camp practices and started each of the two preseason games, playing every snap in the Jaguars' first two drives against the Saints. With Etienne now sidelined for the foreseeable future, Robinson should be expected to undoubtedly be a key piece of the Jaguars offense.
Robinson may not play the absurdly high percentage of snaps he played as a rookie in 2021, but he is the team's best rusher, the best pass-protecting running back, and now the best receiving threat at running back with Etienne injured. While Robinson may not get the same usage as a year ago, he will certainly be a massive part of the offense each week.
Expect Carlos Hyde to get all of the No. 2 RB snaps
It is hard to imagine any of the Jaguars' running backs not named Carlos Hyde will challenge Robinson for snaps in Etienne's absence. Devine Ozigbo had a terrific 30-yard gain on a screen on Monday but Dare Ogunbowale has gotten snaps over Ozigbo for most of camp and the preseason. And before Etienne was ever injured, he was still surprisingly out-snapped by Hyde, the eighth-year bruising veteran the Jaguars signed in March.
Meyer seems to have a strong belief in Hyde, his former running back at Ohio State. Hyde was going to fight Etienne for snaps even without the injury, but now it appears Hyde will sit comfortably in the No. 2 role for the bulk of the 2021 season. The Jaguars could look for outside options or attempt to use Ozigbo or Ogunbowale as pass-catchers, but the odds are slim of either overtaking Hyde.
Jacksonville's offense will now have a noticeable lack of speed among the skill group
Etienne's rookie season has been unfortunately derailed due to injuries, a dismaying result before the season truly begins. And as a result of the injury, the Jaguars are likely going to notice a serious piece of their offense missing once the real games start in September, even if the Jaguars and Meyer didn't use Etienne much before his injury.
Etienne was clearly one of the offense's most explosive players throughout the entirety of training camp. The No. 25 overall pick was drafted due to his penchant to create big plays and he was the Jaguars' most explosive running back before his injury, as well as the running back who flashed the most as a pass-catcher in practice. Neither Robinson or Hyde are runners that would be considered speed backs, leaving the Jaguars devoid of a player to use in space following Etienne's injury.