Questions were raised when the Jacksonville Jaguars plucked running back Travis Etienne off the board in the first round of the NFL Draft, some of which were partly answered upon the revelation Urban Meyer had been keen on now-New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney.
Meyer and the Jaguars wanted a chunk-play field-stretching merchant, the kind with the versatility to both devastate as a yards-after-catch maestro and serve as a receiving threat. Toney fit that bill, but so did Etienne.
The No. 25 overall pick recorded 102 catches for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns alongside 4,952 rushing yards for 70 scores in four seasons at college. As much was made clear about the team’s intentions to build on his dual-capabilities during rookie minicamp as the former Clemson star was worked out at wide receiver.
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Between the arrival of quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Etienne’s intriguing partnership with standout 2020 undrafted free agent James Robinson and the potential of pieces already in place, there is a rejuvenated feel to the Jaguars’ 28th-ranked offense.
“I think there are so many things that could happen with this offense and that is the idea of this offense,” Jaguars senior reporter J.P. Shadrick told Sky Sports.
“If you have the quarterback play, which you feel like you will, and D.J. Chark is going to be there, Laviska Shenault has that big body and he’s not afraid to use that physical style of play as a receiver, Collin Johnson is a tall receiver on the outside, those three are there.
“And then you have James Robinson who had over 1,000 yards last year. He’s not a game-breaker though, his longest run was like 38 yards, but he averages 4.5 a carry and if you do that like he did you will find a role, you need to get consistent yardage, James Robinson is your guy. He’s very much safe.
“Then you throw in a guy like Etienne where Urban Meyer in the past at Florida and Ohio State has always had a guy that can do a few different things.”
The Jaguars also come armed with veteran back Carlos Hyde, whose presence will ease the physical burden on his two younger teammates.
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Etienne’s expected role has been likened to that of former Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, his multi-purpose exploits under Meyer at Florida having amounted to 1,929 yards receiving for 13 touchdowns and 1,851 yards rushing for 19 scores over three seasons.
“Percy was a little smaller, a true wide receiver but they lined him up in the slot or the backfield or move him in motion pre-snap and fake a pitch to him, and he could take it 80 yards for a touchdown, he had that home-run game-breaking ability,” continued Shadrick. “(Indianapolis Colts receiver) Parris Campbell at Ohio State is a guy like that of that same type of role, it’s not truly a position.
“That’s what they have envisioned for Etienne, they know he can run the football, he’s the all-time rusher in ACC history so trying to work him a little more at wide receiver, they did that in rookie minicamp because there was nobody to hand him the ball and no offensive line. That’s the role.”
The introduction of Etienne not only offers Lawrence some immediate familiarity besides adding a new dimension to the Jags offense, but could also prove useful in opening up second-year receiver Shenault, who had 58 catches for 600 yards and five touchdowns while spreading his time between the slot, operating on the outside and even lining up in the backfield as a rookie.
Elsewhere D.J. Chark is primed to target his second 1,000 yard receiving season after being limited to 13 games in 2020, while experienced and somewhat under-the-radar free agency pickup Marvin Jones arrives on the back of a productive individual campaign in which he registered 76 catches (career-best) for 978 yards (2nd-most) and nine touchdowns (tied-2nd-most).
“I think you might see him and Robinson on the field together, you’ll see Shenault in some of that type of role,” said Shadrick. “But Etienne, that’s the vision for his game, line him up in the slot, bubble screen and take it 70, or big field-flipping plays.
“That’s something we haven’t had around here in years and certainly not last year. The more explosive plays they can get, the faster they can score, the more points they can score. It’s hard to sustain eight, 10, 12 play drives for scores in the NFL, it’s really difficult. It’s usually ‘okay three yards, two yards, 60 yards, touchdown’. The more of those types of guys you can have on offense the better.”
Excitement is to be expected with this new-look Jags setup.
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