There is no denying the talent and play-making ability Travis Etienne has brought to the Jacksonville Jaguars' offense in 2022.
With each week and big play, the question surrounding Etienne has continually been this: what else can this young star do?
Etienne has proven himself as a rusher, rushing for 567 yards and four touchdowns in seven starts this year. He has had games as the workhorse with 25+ carries, games where he changes the offense thanks to one or two big home-run hits and games where he has completely taken over.
What Etienne hasn't done yet, though, is stand out in the passing game. But as Jaguars offensive coordinator Press Taylor said on Wednesday, that has little to do with Etienne's ability as a pass-catcher and more to do with the Jaguars' offensive structure in 2022.
“I think a lot of it has just been, in terms of the pass game, the matchups we’re looking for in certain situations," Taylor said. "There hasn’t been a huge need to feature the running back in the pass game with the things we’ve done."
Among all running backs, Etienne's 33 targets are tied for No. 21, his 25 catches are tied for No. 25, his 214 yards are No. 22, and his 0.96 yards per route run are No. 41. For as explosive as Etienne has been as a rusher, the passing game volume just hasn't been there, with Etienne not having a single game with more than three catches or one with over 43 yards.
By comparison, New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara had 11 games as a rookie with more than three catches and 11 games with over 43 yards receiving. Kamara is one of the best pass-catching backs of the modern-era so while a comparison may not be exactly fair, it is worth considering when Etienne's skill set has been compared to Kamara's since college.
But for the Jaguars, the passing game isn't where they see Etienne as the biggest threat; at least not in 2022, with other targets outpacing him on a per-target basis.
"We’ve been able to put Christian (Kirk), Evan (Engram), Zay (Jones), those guys in situations to feature matchups. Now, if the best matchup is Travis on a linebacker, and we have ways to get to that we feel pretty good about what we’re going to get from the defense, then that’s something we’ll certainly emphasize," Taylor said.
There are still five games for Etienne's role as a pass-catcher to grow beyond screens and dump offs. But for now, it looks like Etienne's fixture in the offense is on the ground and not as a multi-dimensional back -- even if that means teams are gearing down for Etienne more down the stretch than previously in the season.
"We’ve certainly played some good defenses that that’s been an effort of them to stop our run game and get Travis from getting started," Taylor said.
"Obviously situations within games dictate that as well. You’re down big in the second half of that game, you’re not going to run the ball as often at Detroit. It’s managing the game, the situation, all that type of thing, but continuing to find ways to get him touches. Sometimes it may be in the pass game, getting him on the perimeter away from the interior to get him some room and space, try to get him going that way. It’s a variety of different things to try to get him going.”